Archive for the ‘credit repair’ Category

Credit Repair: Avoid "free"creditreport.com!

October 4, 2007

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 “freecreditreport.com.” 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 “freecreditreport.com” 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:

fineprint

The “freecreditreport.com” 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:

www.annualcreditreport.com

I would strongly suggest that you stay completely away from “freecreditreport.com” and instead use the www.annualcreditreport.com 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 www.annualcreditreport.com site and two links to FTC sites with information on the two sites and what the differences are. The “freecreditreport.com” site ranks fourth in the results, which is great. Yahoo and MSN get close, ranking annualcreditreport.com 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.

Credit Repair: Introduction

October 2, 2007

I was having lunch with my friend Sarah recently and we were talking about the bleak housing market for those of us looking to buy homes in the Bay Area. Of course, the Bay Area is one of the most unbelievably expensive real estate markets in the country, but the housing slump has affected people all around the country — both those with mortgages that are becoming harder or impossible to pay, and those wanting to buy homes who can’t get mortgages or who are priced out of the market.

Sarah and I laughed when we realized that we’d both been working on cleaning up our credit reports since, as she put it, “What else is there to do right now?” We know we’re not buying in the short term, so we’re both socking away money for a down payment, and trying to fix up our credit reports.

It turns out that we both had found errors in our reports and that we both were wondering how to get them fixed. That’s no surprise, though — according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, as many as 79% of consumer credit reports contain errors or mistakes. Yikes. Considering how much your credit score can affect your ability to get a mortgage, and the interest rate you pay if you can get one, that means that 4 out of 5 people could improve their housing prospects, among many other credit-related expenses, just by correcting inaccuracies in their credit report.

So, I’ve decided to document my credit repair process, what steps I take, how hard it is to accomplish, and what the end result is. I’m going to talk about the resources available to consumers — web sites, books, and whatever else I can find — and which ones work for me and which don’t. I’ll break the process up into pieces so that each post is short and focused on one resource or step.

If you’ve been through this process before and have lived to tell us your stories about it, or have suggestions or questions you want addressed, leave a comment here or write me at “marc at wesabe dot com” and I’ll cover as much of this feedback as I can.