Credit Repair: Avoid "free"!


freecreditreport.comOne of the first things I wanted to do when I started down the path of repairing my credit score was to find out what my credit report is at each of the three major credit bureaus. Knowledge is power, right? I knew that a law had passed several years ago in the U.S. requiring the credit bureaus to give each consumer one free copy of their credit report a year.

One day while the television was on I saw an ad play for “” Sounds like the free credit report mandated by law, but I knew that the credit reporting industry had been pretty unhappy about the law. Who would pay to advertise for a free report?

It turns out that the “” site (I’m deliberately not linking to it) is run by Experian, one of the the three credit bureaus, and it is NOT the site mandated by law to give you a free report. Instead, this site gives you one free report and has you sign up with it in the process. Unless you remember to cancel, your “free” report is followed by an automatic, for-pay subscription to a credit access service. Here’s the fine print (actually, the light-blue type on a dark-blue background) from their site:


The “” site didn’t used to say that — apparently the Federal Trade Commission sued Experian and made them put this statement onto the home page as part of a settlement agreement. Even with it, though, they say that over 20 million Americans have signed up at their site. If you forget to cancel your membership, you’ll pay $142.45 for your first year of “free” credit reports. Ugh! Great deal for Experian, though — if one in ten of the people who’ve signed up were to stay on for that year, Experian would make almost $300 million from a site with “free” in its address.

By advertising this site so aggressively, they also overshadow the actual, truly-free site mandated by law:

I would strongly suggest that you stay completely away from “” and instead use the site to get access to your credit information. If you want more advanced monitoring services, there are several options — including an excellent one from Experian — which I’ll review in future posts. But don’t be fooled into thinking that something is free when it isn’t.

Some other helpful links on this topic:

By the way, I’d like to compliment Google for the way they rank search results for the search “free credit report” — the first three results shown are the site and two links to FTC sites with information on the two sites and what the differences are. The “” site ranks fourth in the results, which is great. Yahoo and MSN get close, ranking first, but an Experian site second in both cases. This is an area where misleading search results can really harm consumers, and it’s great to see all three search engines — Google especially — make an effort to steer people in the right direction. (I’m not sure what went into the ordering of those results, but I’m happy with how it turned out.)

See the rest of our posts on Credit Repair.

12 Responses to “Credit Repair: Avoid "free"!”

  1. Rob Rubin Says:

    Great information.

    A number of our customers (we help people switch bank accounts) have recurring monthly charges posted for these services. In addition to the sites you mention, many people also use and

    Lots of people have complained about these types of services on and (even your recommendation).

    I find the sites purposely confusing. They want you to enter a credit card number for “validation” but it’s pretty easy to then unknowingly sign-up for a fee-based service like “Credit Protection.”

  2. Julie Clarke Says:

    I just got stung by, thinking it was I didn’t realize I had signed up for a monthly service along with getting my free credit report. Stupid Me! I have been charged for two months of their service, didn’t notice it on my bill until today, and have NEVER even received an email from them about my credit. They use the excuse my provider must be blocking their emails. Right! When I called them, they were ready with ALL THE ANSWERS. They must get LOTS of these calls. Highway Robbery!!

  3. Ian Says:

    The agency in charge of managing the free annual credit report business should really have made sure the official company had a .gov website. If not that, at least they could have chosen a name that didn’t lend itself to so much confusion.

    I doubt is taken.

  4. James Says:

    Playing devil’s advocate here. On the very front page of the website “By ordering a free credit report, you will automatically be enrolled in a 30 day free trial of credit monitoring. You will receive automatic notifications of changes to your credit report. For each month that you continue your membership your credit card will be billed $11.95 if you do not cancel your membership within the trial period. You may cancel anytime – there is no obligation.”

    I am a long time customer of and it is an honest and good service. The problem is there are many folk who just do not read what is right under their noses.

    The text on the home page continues :

    “ is not affiliated with the annual free credit report program. Under a new Federal law, you have the right to receive a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies. To request your free annual report under that law, go to”


  5. Debbie Says:


    What I would want would be a name that more accurately reflects the service they provide –


    Not very catchy, but a whole lot more honest.

    I checked out their Web page – what my eye goes to is the orange FREE sign being held up by the smiling model, the pop-out right-hand text box that says FREE four times with white font on colorful backgrounds. The text that actually explains that the service will cost money is blue text on a blue background. Clearly, the flow of this site was designed to get you to read the colorful “free” box first, and then to click on the big “get yours now” arrow.

  6. Rob Says:

    Sorry, but its not Experians fault you didnt read and pay attention to what is clearly posted on the website, which you posted that nice PNG of. This is not a vs thing, they are two seperate things totally, its like walking into a store and looking at something that has its price clearly marked, bringing it to the register, and ranting nonsense about false advertisement after the casheir tells you the price, then walks you over to the item, and shows you, the huge bold red lettered price directly in front of it. “Maybe you were looking at the item above it?” the casheir asks. “No of course not!” you reply. This is just how every idiot acts when they dont pay attention and find out they are wrong. Sorry, no hard feelings but, your little experience with finding out something isnt what you thought it was, when there was no reason think it was anything other than what was clearly stated, is not some huge consumer alert.

  7. Rob Says:

    Sorry, one more thing I need to add. The site actually does give you, a free credit report, so, it’s not dishonest lol.

  8. Rob Says:

    Sorry, one more… @Debbie. Yes they design things like that for idiots that think “Big button look pretty, me click big button!” I think any person with at least an eighth of a functioning brain, would notice that there are many OTHER words also on that same page, and that it may be a good iea to READ those other words, no matter what color they are. If you were at a car dealer looking at a contract that said “ITS YOURS FOR FREE” in large print, and then ten peragraphs stating “we lied, you actually have to pay double the sticker price or we own your soul.” would you sign it? I agree with James on this one, people need to pay attention to whats clearlys tated, and not gravitate toward the large shiny candy-like buttons, then complain about their stupidity later.

  9. Chas Says:

    Thank you for alerting others of the fraud that company’s like are imposing on unsuspecting consumers such as myself. I posted a blog about this very thing, (

    I had no idea that would steal my money from my account and say that they informed me on their site. I am sure that this “information” was in fine print somewhere in the agreement that I submitted to, but come on! Don’t most people accept the terms of a service without reading all of the fine print? I guess I just expected that this company would not rip me off or practice unethical behavior. Apparently $23.90 (the amount they stole from me) is more important to than their good name. I called this company and asked for my money back and they told me they would not refund it. Period. How is $23.90 more important than a life-long happy consumer? How is $23.90 important enough to risk people such as myself going out and warning others of’s shady business practices. Shame on! Don’t use They are a scam!

  10. Matt Says:

    Very useful posts here. This site looks legitimate though from other sites I have reviewed. As always, it is always good to search somewhere else or other forums and reviews sites, before trying the service out.

  11. Money Blog Says:

    Very informative. With all the threat of ID Theft someone could easily set up a free credit report site only to mine your data.

  12. Matthew Says:

    On May 17, 2008 I signed up for a credit report. What does NOT make clear is that there is a mandatory sign-up for an $11.95 monthly credit monitoring “service”. You then have to opt out of this before the 30-day free trial period ends.

    It really says something that you have to opt out of a service rather than opt in, no? Talk about a scam.

    At any rate, I only realized this once they had charged me for the second month (the first apparently was free).

    The day I received the charge, June 17, I called them up expecting that they would simply refund me the money for the service that I was unaware of and had not used.

    On the first try they refused and were only willing to cancel the service.

    Since the first month was free, I should not have been charged for that month, and should have retained service until July 17 (the month they forced me to pay for). However, they canceled the service and ended it immediately (June 17), thereby effectively charging me the $11.95 for nothing.

    When I called back to complain they gave me the run around for a while. When I mentioned that they must get a lot of complaints like this since as there were so many on the internet, the guy spoke over me repeatedly and rudely told me that other credit report agencies got more.

    After a long, drawn out argument “Fernando” told me that he was going to refund me the money. I’ve got the cancellation report and have contacted my bank to notify them that any further charges would be fraudulent.

    If you have problems, call their toll free number and ask to speak to “FERNANDO 612” or “FERNANDO 6127” (he changed the number by the end of the phone call). If they tell you it is not possible to refund your money point out that you read online that they did.

    This is a horrible, horrible service. PLEASE, DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND DON’T USE IT!!! They are betting on people not noticing, paying the first month for a service they were unaware of, and not having the fortitude to complain enough or take legal action against them to get their money back.

    I looked for class action suits against them, but as of this point there don’t appear to be any.

    According to both customer service people that I spoke to the agreement was plainly stated when you sign up, but it wasn’t so plain as to catch my eye. They are, at the very least, being astonishingly sleazy.

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