Credit Agency Fined A Second Time For Misleading People About Free Credit Reports

from the and-don't-let-it-happen-again dept

A few years back it was discovered that most of those sites advertising “free credit reports” were something of a scam. While many of them were run by the various credit agencies, they weren’t the official AnnualCreditReport.com site, but rather tricks to get people to sign up for fee-based credit monitoring reports. Eventually, the FTC cracked down, fining Experian $950,000 for misleading the public. Apparently, though, the business generated by such practices was worth a lot more than that. It appears that Experian simply took the fine to be a cost of doing business for their Consumerinfo.com site, and have continued misleading people into signing up for a “free” credit report, and then quietly enrolling them in an $80 credit-monitoring program. So, now the FTC is back fining the company a second time, this time for $300,000. Given that the larger fine didn’t get the company to mend its ways, somehow it makes you wonder if this new fine will be any more effective. It certainly does seem to be a conflict of interest to let these credit reporting companies charge you to alert you to whenever they might make a mistake. Of course, the credit agencies don’t see it that way. Soon after this practice was originally outed, Experian competitor Equifax’s CEO stated that it was “un-American” to let people view the information that these companies had about them for free.


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Comments on “Credit Agency Fined A Second Time For Misleading People About Free Credit Reports”

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35 Comments
free my shiny metal ... says:

freecreditreport.com

Wow, the FTC actually noticed this and did something (not enough obviously). These places have annoyed me for a long time. You are supposed to be able, by government mandate, to get one free credit report every year. I was able to dig one out of one of these 3 a few years ago, (after trying my best at all of them), but since then they have plugged that “hole”.

Another peeve of mine is this place freecreditreport.com. Since when does “free” = $15? They have this catchy tune which I like to mangle. “At free cre-dit-re-port-dot-com your cre-dit-report’s-not-free”. You see it isn’t really false advertising. You are paying $15 for something called a “free credit report”.

HangemHigh says:

Stiffer Penalty

A fine for scamming people is “just a cost of doing business” … and they continue and continue again. Oobviously the laws aren’t working.

What we need is a return to the old days when they would tar and feather the snake oil salesmen and run them out of town on a rail.

The penalty needs more impact. So how about putting the execs in jail for 6 months to a year in a hardcore prison so they can learn a lesson on being a con’s girlfriend. Add a fine equivalent to the cost of their and their “boyfriend”‘s upkeep in jail.

Dam says:

A Proper Punishment

Adding two more zeros would have been the correct fine.

Going forward, all credit report ads and all credit bureau web sites should be required to have a live link to http://annualcreditreport.com at the top of the page,
in a font that’s easily read, not something that can be buried at the bottom of the page.

Obtaining a free report was a major win for consumers and these bozos are tricking far too many people into spending money for what is rightfully free.

Credit bureaus are in desperate need of tighter regulation, and, being very much pro-business, it’s not easy for me to state that. But, the power they have over the lives of consumers and the apparent lack of due diligence they exhibit in maintaining accurate data makes me agree to a much tighter regulatory environment for this industry.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A Proper Punishment

Credit bureaus are in desperate need of tighter regulation, and, being very much pro-business, it’s not easy for me to state that. But, the power they have over the lives of consumers and the apparent lack of due diligence they exhibit in maintaining accurate data makes me agree to a much tighter regulatory environment for this industry.

They need to have the special laws that protect them from liability for their mistakes repealed. What we are seeing is the result of another industry exploiting its special government protection in the market.

Overcast says:

Yeah, they aren’t free… at least if you want a ‘credit score’ anyway.

Plus, the free credit score hype is just a way for the companies to run in your face how much credit card debt you have. Just like those commercials where you hear them saying they will save you money on your credit card using ‘techniques the credit card companies don’t want you to know’, which is 180 degree misleading, as the credit card companies are the ones paying for that to attempt to collect debt.

Recent changes in bankruptcy law didn’t fix much for them, people shrug and say ‘oh well, I still can’t pay it’.

Personally, I’m proud to say I’ve never had a real credit card, lol.

Nasty Old Geezer says:

Synergy

I am going to file a copyright/patent on my personal information. Anyone (including credit companies) that wnat to exploit my personal IP must then may me a license fee.

Just to keep it reasonable, I will only charge $10,000 per use for a non-exclusive license to use my IP on one machine for one user, and only $5,000 for each subsequent user.

I can join the MPAA and RIAA, and have them sue people world-wide, and get the FBI to raid the spammers…..

Sorry — I was in an aleternate universe where “real people” actually have rights.

jimdamico says:

My Experience...

I joined freecreditreport.com about a year ago. There was a 30 day free trial which, when expired, turned into a month by month subscription at about $13/month. I pulled my credit, found a discrepancy, and had it taken care of. It was nice having my score available, and the site is easy to use and has a lot of good info. I kept the account open and have payed the monthly subscription ever since. If a credit inquiry goes on my account I am emailed immediately. I find it nice having the piece of mind as well as monitoring my score. I have been able to raise it over 50 points just be being AWARE of how it works. Sure, I was naive prior to joining, but it opened my eyes and has helped me tremendously.

One thing I do agree with is the comment about having the annualcreditreport.com link on the page and clearly explained that we get one free report from each agency per year. That is not clearly explained anywhere I have seen on freecreditreport.com. I have paid about $25 each time I want a full report from all three agencies.

Is it true that the report is free (1/year) but the score is not?

-jim d

Gemini says:

Re: Re: Re:

https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/helpfaq#statelaw

“Am I entitled to a free credit report under state law?

In addition to consumers who are eligible for a free credit report through the Annual Credit Report Request Service; consumers in some states are eligible for a free credit report under state law. The following states have laws that make free credit reports available to consumers: Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont.”

Ike Dent says:

Credit reports for free- UN American

The real fraud here is the fact that these agencies are gathering your information and selling it back to you.

Most people don’t realize this. The credit reporting industry is filled with blue suede shoe boys and needs to be selling junk used cars rather than dealing with the hard working people of America’s lives.

Charlee says:

The Credit Bureaus Are Deadbeats!

I went online last year and got free credit reports, 1 from each bureau. When I tried repeat this miracle this year, my (same) password would not work and I could not start as a new user on the site. I wound up using the telephone request process, and have my fingers crossed that it works. As corporate crooks, they rank second only to DELL COMPUTERS.

I shudder to think that they are in charge of managing my credit history and are allowed free reign to do this year after year, no matter HOW MANY people complain. I think I’m going to write my State Sentor.

Operator (user link) says:

Should have read this review first...

… instead, I’ve added $14.95 to FreeCreditReport.com’s coffers.

Account cancellation took three tries to their customer service line (1-877-481-6826) … and I’m still not certain the account is closed.

First try: Pressed “1” for cancellation, on hold for a minute, received a “call cannot be completed as dialed” message.

Second try: Pressed “3” for customer service, then “2” to speak to a representative. Received a busy signal.

Third try: Pressed “1” for cancellation (had to give it another try – this was my due diligence before calling my credit card issuer to charge back the subscription fee) and actually spoke to a rep.

Problems with the conversation: Rep wanted my full social security number to confirm my identity (while I do not doubt that this information was readily available on her computer, I try to avoid tossing around my full social security number in situations which may facilitate it being written down).

Rep was either unwilling or unable to provide a confirmation number for the call – I have no “proof” that I canceled and am left waiting for an e-mail which confirms my account cancellation.

FreeCreditReport.com – Stay far, far away.

john says:

freecreditreport.com

I agree with all other respondents and admit I was scammed just like them. As I am writing this I have been on hold for a second time with their customer care line. First time was 45 minutes with no response and now another 20 minutes. I have already called my credit card people to report this. They say I must wait until the charge hits my account since my 9 day free period has not expired. BEWARE!!!!!!!!

john says:

freecreditreport.com

I agree with all other respondents and admit I was scammed just like them. As I am writing this I have been on hold for a second time with their customer care line. First time was 45 minutes with no response and now another 20 minutes. I have already called my credit card people to report this. They say I must wait until the charge hits my account since my 9 day free period has not expired. BEWARE!!!!!!!!

M Horton says:

Credit companies right to do anything

I don’t know who gave these guys the right to report anything!!!!! They were just list brokers back in the early ’80’s, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s all they are now!
Get rid of your credit cards, drive your car for a few more years, and guess what —– they aren’t shit. I don’t care if they give me a 500 score – it’s irrelevant.
Signed, Don’t Care

american citizen says:

credit disclosure scam

This concerns Equifax. After trying all the telephone numbers given to get a free credit report, I called the company directly who aparently outsource using people who do not understand or care about your problem. After I was told to write the information services giving my personal ID info I would get my free report. HA!! They sent back a form letter stating stating they need copies of my ID and my free report would cost me. So now I will be another person who reports them to the FTC and hope to have better luck than all the above complaints I have read.

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