Phone (don't click) for your free credit report --
The WPF investigation identified 96 known misspelled,
registered domains -- 28 of which belong to Experian and other credit
services such as MyFico at Fair Isaac. These sites try to exploit
errors in typing to deliver you to a different site with services
you have to pay for. Some of these impostor sites actually claim
to be www.AnnualCreditReport.com, while others take advantage of
the typing error to forward information on you to search engines
or advertising partners of other affiliates.
Snags at authorized site
Even if you're fortunate and careful enough to
get to the "real" free credit report site, you're still not out of the
woods. When you visit the site you first fill in some personal information and
continue to the next page. There, you have the choice of selecting one of the
big three to order your report from.
Remember, you are entitled to one free report every
12 months from each of the big three credit reporting firms. You
can order all three at once, which is good if you want to compare
them, or you can order one now and save the others for later on,
which you may choose in order to see how the information improves
or declines. And remember, the reports do not include your respective
credit scores -- you have to pay to get those.
If you choose TransUnion, for example, it requires
you to register to get your free report and asks for an e-mail address.
If you sign up for its newsletter, it will share your credit and
other information with affiliates and partners. Experian and Equifax,
the WPF says, use confusing menus in offering the free credit reports
and ordering reports from all three means a consumer would have
to read and understand several different privacy policies. Robert
Brennan, an attorney in La Crescenta, Calif., issues another
interesting warning: Some of these online credit report sites contain
a mandatory arbitration agreement which prevents you from taking
a case against the credit bureau to court.
"I have long recommended the Internet to consumers
for advice, research and consumer information," says Dixon,
"but in this case I strongly urge using the toll-free telephone
number to order these reports. Doing that will expose you to far
fewer hazards and challenges, some of which could be quite serious."
Scott Bilker, founder of DebtSmart.com
and author of the best-selling "Talk Your Way Out of Credit
Card Debt," says it is almost impossible to monitor, never
mind control, the mushrooming of these impostor sites. "The
big credit bureaus do offer free credit reports. But they are also
quick to order information about your credit score which comes at
a price. They also try to sell other services such as credit score
protection or credit management.
Paul Richard, executive director of the Institute
of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE), also is warning consumers
about bogus credit report sites. "If, for one reason or another,
someone has to use the Internet for this purpose," he says,
"the most critical thing to insure is that the correct address
or URL has been typed in correctly."
- Free is free: If
you have to supply a credit card or checking account number, it
means you're going to pay. You may get the initial credit report
for free, but you may also be signing up for a continuing service
at a price.
- No junk mail: Don't
respond to e-mail offers for free credit reports -- they're almost
- Be secure: Always
be sure you're on a secured Web site when entering your personal
- Keep it secret:
When phoning the toll free number (877-322-8228) for a free credit
report, ask that only the last four digits of your Social Security
number are displayed on the reports to be mailed to you.
- Reduce solicitations:
Don't give out your e-mail address to obtain a federally mandated
free credit report -- it is not required.
- Run from pop-ups:
If you do choose to go online to https://www.AnnualCreditReport.com
and see pop-up ads, or if the site is not secure, close your browser
and start over. Secure sites will have a padlock logo in the corner,
and the address will begin with https:// instead of just http://.
- Check and uncheck:
If you go online to https://www.AnnualCreditReport.com, be sure
to look for any pre-checked marketing or newsletter offers. If
you decide you do not want these offers, uncheck the box.
"In this day and age, with identity theft rampant,"
says attorney Brennan, nephew of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice
William J. Brennan, Jr., "it's a good idea to subscribe to
a monitoring service to keep on top of your credit report and changes
For complete findings of the "Call, Don't Click"
report visit WorldPrivacyForum.