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FTC rule, targets Credit Report Sites

By Faye Mergel
Published: Sunday, April 25th, 2010

PAL-00019222-001Undoubtedly you have seen those advertisements on the internet to visit a website where you can get a free credit report. The truth of the matter is that the customer is requesting far more than a free credit report. Most consumers who visit sites like this end up signing up for a free credit report, along with which they also end up signing up for a host of other programs and services. These services are “free”, for the first seven to thirty days that is. Credit.com Chairman and Co-founder Adam Levin, had this to say “They would sign up for a free credit report and they would in fact get a free credit report. But they would also be enrolled in programs where if they didn’t opt out after a period of seven to 30 days, they would be enrolled in credit and fraud monitoring programs which could cost them anywhere between $14.99 and $17.99 a month” 

Probably the worst part is that the website does in fact inform the customer of these charges. Where? In the fine print! Upon receipt of numerous complaints from customers who felt that they had been tricked into an up selling racket and were forced to pay hidden fees, the Federal Trade Commission released a mandate which came into effect since April. With some support from the congress, the FTC was able to pass the CARD Act, which requires sites to post a link to the real site where free credit reports can be obtained, annualcreditreport dot com. 

FTC Northeast Regional Office Director Leonard Gordon said, “When you hit the website for someone who is offering a free credit report, if it’s not annualcreditreport.com they have to have a prominent disclosure on the top of the page, telling you can go to annualcreditreport.com to get a truly free copy of your credit report. 

The law requires each of the three credit reporting agencies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once a year which means you could space out your requests and check your credit every couple of months. But even if you decide to just make it an annual event, experts say the important thing is to get a copy of those reports and check them carefully.” Gordon also added that “Inaccurate information can really harm your credit rating, In addition, you want to make sure no one has opened an account in your name that you are aware of. That’s a very strong sign that you may have been a victim of identity theft.” 

The new rule is already applicable for websites, and will be applicable for TV and radio ads as well starting September.

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