credit cards

New rules on 'free' credit report ads

Necessary or far enough?

The new requirements may help people realize when they're not on the official Web site for free credit reports under federal law. "There are so many ads on radio and in print, on the Internet, saying you can get your free credit report, but once they provide that free credit report they also take that opportunity to try and sell you a credit score credit monitoring service," says Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com.

Disclosures already exist, but may not be as prominent as they are now required to be. The real clue that has always existed is the fact that for-profit Web sites ask for credit card information. "Free" products shouldn't require payment information.

In some cases, however, you might not see a disclosure at all. The requirements don't apply to marketing of "free credit scores."

"If they are purely advertising free credit scores, the rule doesn't apply. The Credit CARD act only specified that the rule would cover free credit reports," says George. She added that the FTC would need to examine ads that marketed a combination of both free credit scores and reports.

"You could have driven a ship through this loophole," says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for Credit.com. The reason for the loophole, he adds, is due to the same federal law that required free annual credit reports.

Nothing in the FACT Act mandates annual free scores from a centralized source. Sending people to AnnualCreditReport.com from a free score advertisement might confuse consumers who are looking for a free score and only find access to their free report.

Those who want to buy their credit scores may end up paying more for it soon. "The companies that sell and market credit reports are in businesses to make money. They're going to look for a way to subsidize the cost of compliance," says Ulzheimer.

Free credit monitoring

For free credit monitoring (minus a score), stagger free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com by ordering one every four months from a different reporting agency.

Use our FICO score estimator to get a score range for free. You have to pay to get your real score.

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