When is a ‘Free’ Credit Report, Not Really Free?

March 13, 2008

On the surface, it seems logical:  You type the phrase “free credit report” in a search engine to access the Web site that offers free reports–which you’re entitled to, by law.

But here’s the catch:  Your search results might not drive you to the one legitimate Web site operated by the Federal Trade Commission.

Q:  What’s the danger in going to the wrong Web site to get your free credit report?
A:  These sites hook you with offers of so-called free credit reports while aggressively marketing other services.  Go to any site other than annualcreditreport.com and you may wind up paying needlessly for services you don’t want.  Or, you could pay $75 for a credit score that otherwise costs $8 to $12.  In one example, a site advertised a “free credit report” but failed to disclose adequately that, if you signed up, you automatically would be enrolled in a credit-monitoring program and charged $79.95.  Many disclosures are in the fine print and easy to overlook.

Q:  What are some sites to stay away from?
A:  The one most heavily advertised is freecreditreport.com.  Other variations include free-credit-reports.com, freecreditreportsinstantly.com, thefreecreditreportsource.com, creditreport.com, creditreporting.com, and nationalcreditreport.com.

Q:  Which site allows access to free credit reports without trying to sell unnecessary services?
A:  Go to annualcreditreport.com, which was established after the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 gave consumers the right to obtain–once a year–a free credit report from each of the big three credit reporting agencies:  Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  Or, you can call toll-free 877-322-8228.

Q:  Should I order the three annual free credit reports all at once?
A:  You can order them all at the same time.  A better strategy is to stagger your requests throughout the year.  Order a free report from one agency, then wait four months and order a report from a different agency, then wait another four months and order the third report.  After a year, start the process over again.  That way, you’re more likely to detect errors–or even fraudulent accounts set up in your name–than if you wait a whole year to look at all three of your reports.

Another suggestion is to visit any branch of First New York Federal Credit Union.  We can help you understand your credit report and score, and make recommendations on how to improve your score – and it’s REALLY FREE!

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Common Credit Report Mistakes Could Cost You

March 7, 2008

If you haven’t requested a copy of your credit report, there are many reasons why you should.

A 2004 study–the most recent available–by the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups revealed that almost 79% of all credit reports contain some type of error.  One-fourth of credit reports contain such serious errors that those individuals could be denied credit or be charged a higher interest rate.

What are the common errors?

1.  Misspelled names
2.  Wrong Social Security numbers
3.  Inaccurate birth dates
4.  Inaccurate information about a spouse
5.  Out-of-date address
6.  “Closed” accounts listed as “open”
7.  The same mortgage or loan listed twice
8.  Absence of major credit, loan, mortgage, or other accounts that could be used to demonstrate creditworthiness

What should you do?  Review your credit report, at least annually, for accuracy.  If you uncover an error, contact the credit reporting agency to have it corrected.  On an annual basis you can get a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com.  In between, First New York members can have their credit report run at no charge, to make sure your credit report is accurate.  Visit any branch office for more information.