By now we all know about the not-so-free nature of those FreeCreditReport.com services; a few of you even say you've fallen for its misleading practices. But even after the government publicly condemned the site, "free" credit monitoring services — which require you to sign up for a paid service, but promise you can cancel at any time — are popping up everywhere.
One friend recently had a particularly nasty experience with one of these companies while apartment hunting. To hear what happened,
An apartment listing on Craigslist requested that she get her own credit report through a specific company. She filled out all the info and put in a credit card when prompted (ouch), but wasn’t able to access the free report she was promised. A week later, charges showed up on her card, but each time she called the company to cancel, she was sent to voicemail. After some Google research revealed that several fraud alerts had already been filed against the company, she reported the charges as fraudulent to her credit card company.
Savvy as we all may be, it’s easier than you think to get sucked into one of these situations. To prevent this from happening to you, keep the following tips in mind:
- Only request free credit reports using AnnualCreditReport.com. You can request a free report up to three times a year, once from each of the major reporting agencies. This site will not ask you to enter your credit card number.
- Type the Annual Credit Report URL directly into your address bar, rather than clicking on a link from a third party to reach the site. If you’re redirected to a site that isn’t one of the major reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian), don’t continue with the process.
- If at any point you’re asked for a credit or debit card number, walk away. Companies only request a credit card for one reason: they plan to charge you. Period.
Have you ever had an experience with one of these companies? Do you have any other tips to add?