Like a lot of scams, this one may not be illegal, but I would argue that FreeCreditReport.com, which advertises “free” credit reporting, is deceptively marketed and designed to take advantage of people who are worried about their credit scores.
The Product: Freecreditreport.com
First, what is the product sold by the company? It is monitoring of your credit report created by Experion, including alerts warning you of new information which might harm your score. Since Experion is just one of the three main credit reporting agencies, and since these agencies may report different information on your report, the product is of very limited utility.
Second, there’s nothing free about this “free” credit reporting “service.” You can sign up for a trial offer of seven days. It costs a buck and gives you pretty much what you could get for free if you followed links provided by the government. Credit agencies are required to give you a free credit report once a year. At the end of the seven-day “trial” period (but the service may be inactive for the first two of those days), if you forget to cancel the service, they’ll be billing you for $16.95 per month until you do cancel.
Why It’s a Scam
I believe that setting up and heavily advertising something as free when it isn’t free is deceptive marketing. A trial period of only seven days – two days of which don’t even work – is clearly designed to trap and rip off people who aren’t on their toes. And it isn’t even free.
Maybe most important of all is the whole service anyway. To suggest that constantly monitoring one credit bureau is enough is false because the credit bureaus can have different information and you would need to check all three. Ironically, it is also true that getting your credit report every month is also much more than you need – you won’t need your report nearly that often if you are in process of repairing your report (as i suggest how to do in this month’s Life after Litigation article). The process moves much more slowly than that.So your actual need of the product is very limited. The service costs far more than it is worth in my opinion.
And finally, the who marketing of the service is designed to create impulse buys. The ads raise the prospect of identity theft or sudden action by credit bureaus and offer FreeCreditReport.com as some sort of solution. It would not in fact help much with either of these problems. Simply knowing that you’ve suffered identity theft or negative credit reports is only the small tip of the iceberg in protecting your rights.