Wednesday, August 24, 2005
( 8:41 AM ) Mary Beth
FTC Puts the Whomp on freecreditreport.com
I feel vindicated. For months now, I've been carping about freecreditreport.com and the commercials they were running. At the very time when the FACT Act was beginning to mandate that the three consumer reporting agencies provide to a consumer, upon request, one free copy of his or her credit report each year, the commercials for freecreditreport.com started appearing. The immediate and natural assumption of the vast majority of viewers was bound to be, "Oh, this must be what I've been hearing about. This is where I go to get the free credit report that the law entitles me to." At first, I even thought that -- but I knew better. I had seen the actual FTC rule on the subject, giving the real Web address for such requests -- annualcreditreport.com. Let's face it, however, the majority of people don't troll the Federal Register like I do, and it was easy to predict some consumers would be misled.
When I watched the commercials, I listened carefully for "weasel words" -- anything that would reveal that there was a hidden catch to getting the free report. I didn't hear any, but I knew there had to be a hook somewhere. I feared that it was perhaps ID thieves, or information brokers, who were procuring and providing a credit report free in exchange for your authorization. That way, they had a permissible purpose for obtaining the report, and who knows what they would do with it (besides provide a copy to you) once they had it. I worried that maybe the Web site itself harbored malicious code, such as keystroke logging spyware, that would compromise sensitive information. (I know, I have a vivid and paranoid imagination.) The fact is, I knew something was wrong. I couldn't tell who was behind the site, but it didn't make sense for them to give away something for nothing. I was right.
The Federal Trade Commission announced on August 15, 2005 that the entity behind freecreditreport.com settled Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceptively marketed free credit reports. Consumers were automatically signed up for a credit report monitoring service and charged $79.95 if they didn't cancel within 30 days, and, allegedly, that fact was not being adequately disclosed to them.
According to the FTC, ads made claims such as:
FREE! FREE! FREE! Get Your FREE Credit Report Online in Seconds!!!!
Click here to get a FREE copy of your online Credit Report Instantly!
And that’s not all. . . along with your INSTANT credit report,
we’ll giveyou 30 FREE days of the
Credit Check Monitoring Service at no obligation.
FTC says that consumers were required to provide detailed personal information and a valid credit card account number to get their credit report. They were assured that, “Your card will not be charged during the free trial period. However, valid credit card information is required to establish your account.”
You can read the full text of the FTC's announcement regarding this settlement here. #