“F-R-E-E, That Spells Free” (Well, Not Always)

Over the last few years, we’ve seen some pretty entertaining commercials about the importance of checking our credit reports.  While the basic message is true, there is some important information hidden in the fine print at the end – the cost.  As you might imagine, consumers who opt to use these services often encounter hidden fees or are required to sign up for additional services before they get their “free” report. You should know that annualcreditreport.com is the only authorized source for free credit reports. Of the several other sites that advertise this type of service, none are truly free. Even those websites with “free” in their name will cost you.

To counter services that claim to provide consumers with a free credit report, the Federal Trade Commission has produced two commercials lampooning such offers.  The message they’re trying to get across is simple – there is only one website that offers you a free credit report. Both ads direct people to annualcreditreport.com – again, the only Internet source for a free credit report.

You may be asking “Why it this important?” Well, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, which became a federal law in 2003, guarantees the ability of each American to receive one free credit report each year from the three major credit reporting agencies.  In cooperation with the FTC, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax set up the website, annualcreditreport.com, to provide Americans with free access to their credit reports.

As you probably know, an individual’s credit report is reviewed to help assess their creditworthiness. Over the last decade, usage of these reports has changed dramatically.  It is not uncommon nowadays that your report would be reviewed when you apply for a job, secure an insurance policy – even when you look for an apartment.  With so much relying upon the accuracy of your credit report, it is important to review them annually, especially since recent statistics indicate that close to 70% of all credit reports contain errors.

The credit reporting agencies are required to report accurate information regarding your profile; however, that does not necessarily mean your reports are correct.  The accuracy of the items reported is dependent on the way that information is reported by subscribers – the credit card companies, lending institutions, and even the court systems that report to that particular agency.  If one of those subscribers provides information that is incorrect, it will not be picked up by the credit reporting agency.  Therefore, it is important that you take the time to review your reports each year.  If you find information that is incorrect, you have the ability to correct it or dispute it.  Since the law allows you to do so for free, why pay a fee?  To get copies of your reports, please visit www.annualcreditreport.com.  If you prefer to order them by phone, you can do so by calling 877-322-8228.

For more information, or to speak with a certified credit counselor please contact Cambridge Credit Counseling at 800-897-2200 or www.cambridgecredit.org.

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