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Former FTC Lawyer Criticized for Free Credit Report Scheme

By Faye Mergel
Published: Monday, September 7th, 2009

Marly Harris criticized former Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lawyer Ben Stein for luring consumers to a “free credit report” site which charges consumers about $30 each month for service subscription. Harris, “The Consumer Reporter” at cbsmoneywatch.com, bashed Stein after endorsing “Freescore,” a website, in a one-minute television commercial. 
 
Former FTC Lawyer Criticized for Free Credit Report SchemeFreescore is a credit reporting site that promises to give consumers unlimited access to their credit score from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The TV ad also promises to alert consumers when major changes happen in their credit score. All this, the website promises to offer for free. However, Harris, after going to Freescore, found out that the site asks for many fees from subscribers.

The website does offer credit report, but not for free. To register to the website, a person will be asked $1 for a 7-day trial membership. That allows a person to access his credit score and credit report for a whole week. When the period expires, a trial member has the choice to continue or opt out of the deal. However, those who do not cancel on time will be automatically classified as regular subscribers. This gives the website the right to charge a person’s credit card with $29.95 each month.

Marly Harris says that a 29.95-dollar monthly fee does not give a consumer a lot. She commented that there is no need for a consumer to know major changes in his credit score unless he is applying for loan. She comments that checking on one’s credit score from time to time is “like going on a diet and then weighing yourself every hour to see if there’s been a change.”
However, Harris is not the only one who makes Ben Stein look bad. Just this August 7, New York Times dropped his column for endorsing this same website. Freescore has been criticized by finance and credit experts as “sleazy, dishonest, and unnecessary.”

Felix Salmon, a blogger for Reuters, describes Stein as a “predatory bait-and-switch merchant.”  However, Ben Stein retorted that he is not fired by New York Times because of his commercial. He is quoted saying that he “was fired for being a creationist.” He also links New York Times’ dropping of his column to his attacks on President Barack Obama.

Whether Stein was fired for political reasons or not; whether he made the right decision on endorsing Freescore, news writers agree that Stein no longer holds the good public image he once had.

Meanwhile, Harris advises consumers not to pay for something they can get for free at the government-sponsored website, annualcreditreport.

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