Scam or Legit? See My Review For 2016
23 Sep, 2016
AnnualCreditReport.com Scam or Legit? See My Review For 2016
by CreditCardForum Staff
AnnualCreditReport.com is the only website for free credit reports that is mandated and authorized by federal government, but it’s not without problems.
In 2003 President George W. Bush signed into law the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act. One of its provisions required each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to provide consumers free access to their credit reports every 12 months.
This act gave birth to the AnnualCreditReport.com website, which contrary to popular belief, is not a government-run site. Rather, it is operated by Central Source LLC, which is a joint venture created by the three credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
Be warned: their website does NOT provide free credit scores! If you try to get your scores through their site you may have to enroll in a “free” trial with the credit bureaus that can be difficult to cancel during the 7-day grace period. After that you will be charged. Read on for some better options.
There are only four ways for consumers to get their real FICO scores . The vast majority of website, including the offers from the bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com, use imitation scoring models that are not FICOs. What they offer you is NOT used by lenders or creditors; it’s merely a score for “educational purposes.”
If you want to get your real FICO, there are several sources licensed to provide it directly to consumers as of Q2 2016:
(PAID) Pay $19.95 to MyFICO (FICO’s website) for each score from each credit bureau every single time you want to check it.
(PAID) Pay $19.95 to Equifax every single time you want to check your Equifax FICO.
(PAID) Pay $21.95 per month for Experian’s credit-monitoring service, which includes access to your Experian FICO score.
(FREE) With a Discover card. you get your TransUnion FICO for free every month on your statement. Barclaycard and Chase Slate card also provide this service. For a comprehensive listing of all of our featured cards that provide free FICO scores please click here
Even though checking your reports through the AnnualCreditReport.com website won’t get you your scores, it’s a great way to check your credit health and to make sure all the information is accurate. However, since going live, the site has been the source of quite a few complaints:
Complaint #1: Confusing name
The similarly titled FreeCreditReport.com took a lot of criticism for its similar sounding name (side note: they now focus on their other site, FreeCreditScore.com instead). But in all fairness, it’s not like AnnualCreditReport.com has the best name either.
Why? Because with the word “annual” in there, many people assume that means once per year . They think it means they can check their credit report from each of the three bureaus once per calendar year.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it actually works. Rather than going by calendar year, it goes by every 12 months.
When the end of the calendar year rolls around – like the fourth quarter – I regularly hear from consumers who rush to check all three credit reports, thinking the clock will reset on January 1. It’s not until the following year when they discover they will have to wait twelve full months after checking before they can do it again.
Self disclosure time: At one point I even believed this was how it worked and made that same mistake. It’s best to stagger your requests by 3 or 4 months, in other words, so you can check all three credit bureaus once per year. That way you can maintain a rolling status check on your credit and not have to wait a full year to see it again.
Complaint #2: Misleading credit score ads
When using the Annual Credit Report website, you will be bombarded with paid ads; some clearly identified as such, others not so much.
The TransUnion report is the one that generates the highest volume of complaints. Here’s why…
The “I want my free credit score” is an advertisement and so is the Score tab which is next to the Report tab at the top.
Click and you will be taken to this page (I took this screenshot in an earlier year):
It’s not until after you click the “FREE SCORE” button above where you are taken to a page which fully explains that you are actually enrolling in a 7-day trial. Yeah, technically it is free but if you don’t cancel, you will be automatically billed at the regular price (which was $14.95 per month last I checked).
Now in all honesty, I actually don’t have a problem with these types of “free” trial offers. I don’t think they are a scam as long the terms are clearly and prominently identified (in order words, if the consumer truly knows what they’re signing up for). But, the way this “free” trial is displayed *could* potentially mislead a consumer and be confusing to those who erroneously believe they’re on a government site.
Complaint #3: Website not working
I have heard people allege that there is some sort of AnnualCreditReport.com scam going on when they can’t access the website. Their theory is that it’s allegedly used as a trick, to deter them from the free report and, instead, go to credit bureau’s website directly and buy a report.
Coincidentally, while writing this review I actually encountered Experian not being available (pictured left).
But does this make AnnualCreditReport.com a scam? Absolutely not. That conspiracy theory is nonsense.
When a credit bureau is unavailable like this, it’s probably due to routine site maintenance or some other temporary issue. If that happens, just check back later and it should be working. For me, that message was gone 20 minutes later.
Conclusion? This is frustrating to encounter but don’t worry, this is NOT a scam. Just be patient and return a bit later.
Complaint #4: Can’t confirm your ID
A couple times when I’ve used the AnnualCreditReport.com website, I wasn’t able to pull all my reports. A message would be spit back saying they can’t confirm my identity and to get the report through this site, I would have to jump through hoops to validate my ID. If I recall correctly, it involved mailing in proof.
On the forum I have seen people say there is a scam going on when this happens. But it’s actually not a scam or trick. The truth is that they really do have to validate you’re the real deal before handing over your personal report.
Complaint #5: Pushing identity theft protection
Thanks to all those TV commercials for LifeLock and Identity Guard, the business of selling monthly ID protection subscriptions seems to be hotter than ever (but it’s debatable whether they’re justified).
So I guess it comes as no surprise that we’re getting bombarded with ID theft prevention ads when all we want to do is get our free credit reports.
But at the end of the day…
…this is still by far the best site to get your credit reports for free. Despite the complaints, AnnualCreditReport.com is NOT a scam.
Sure, the quality of AnnualCreditReport.com might not be the best, but it’s still the only legit place you can get a truly free report without having to enroll in some trial offer… as long as you don’t do so accidentally!
But if you only want to see your FICO score each month for free, you should get a Discover It or consider this offer from Barclays:
Updated August 1, 2016
Wonderful post as usual. It truly is deserving of note that if your credit is unattractive this would mean you probably have a Credit score that’s part way through Five hundred or even lower. This is extremely low credit score.
You will find 2 ways lenders may look at these ratings, the first is a routine non-payer or a situational non-payer. Habitual non-payer is somebody who gets financing or financial products or credit from somewhere rather not rapay the loan. Or, bounces checks just about everywhere and never ensures they are good. A situational non-payer could be anyone who has a long background of… …financial risk – they don’t get anything out of loaning you money therefore they will not. There’s no equity in unsecured loans and you don’t have collateral.
Now going back to your problem. A good loan offer may rely on the kind of loan, credit score/history, the amount you want and Annual percentage rates charges by the loan company. Nevertheless, Azuritrust offers Unsecured Loans from $1,000 to $250,000 with a 4.75 FIXED APR for unsecured loans. We Also do not demand any advance or application fee.
Comparing loan offers, requirements and the amount you want from various financial institutions can also help.
I have requested a free online credit report from all three bureaus, staggered through out the year (one different bureau report every four months ). This successfully worked until about 2 years ago. Now I just get a message from each bureau saying something similar to “Our service is unavailable, fill out this form and send in via mail”
Sounds to me like the bureaus are making the process more difficult for the customers, and the FTC is not following up on this.
Since I tried to get the report from each bureau three different days of the year, and this happens, I highly doubt that website maintenance is the issue…..
I concur. I just tried for the second year (a more-than-12-month period) in a row to get my “free” credit reports. Last year I managed to get one of them in the end, but this year nada. After entering my data (correct data) and clicking on the first reporting company, Experian, I was told simply “We were unable to honor your request.” I then clicked to go to the next report but was told “thank you” and that I should bookmark this site to come back next year for all of my three reports. In other words, I was told that I was done, hope I appreciated it, and goodbye. Supremely frustrating and unacceptable.
It is OBVIOUS that ACR does not want to give you a free credit report. The web barriers are very difficult to surmount, so most people give up and pay money, as ACR wants. They say I have already received a free report within a year, so I am not eligible. But I did not. They ask very picky and detailed questions, which are unnecessary and often impossible to answer. They say “unable to complete your request” with no reason. Their Captcha character recognition system rejects most anything you enter. They reject you for any of the above and you have to start over or worse they say you are disqualified. They say you have to apply by mail. I got their form and filled it out and sent it back. They never replied.
So in desperation I paid them for a report. Then I found in the fine print on the very last web option, that now I was a “member” and they would charge me $25 additional every month. I never signed up for that and it is a complete ripoff. I had to call them to complain, and then they offered me half price to remain a member if I agreed to stay on for 5 years. THIS IS ALL A COMPLETE SCAM.
The last few times I’ve tried to use annualcreditreport.com it either told me that I had already pulled that particular report, or it was unable to provide the report (not “unable to verify identity”) and I needed to print a form and mail it in. I’ve not been able to actually pull a report online for about two years now.
Used to be a great site, but something happened along the way, and it now doesn’t work. No idea why.
Just tried to get my reports. Only TransUnion worked. Equifax and Experian asked me to send documentation in “snail mail”, and said they could not give me a report online.
Too bad. Like everything else in this country, started out good, THEN THE MBA’S CAME ALONG TO “OPTIMIZE PROFITS”. Now, all these firms can burn in hell as far as I’m concerned.
My insurance jumped from $777 a year to over $1,900 because Transunion submitted a credit report full of errors. I also found out that Transunion had a class action suit in 2009. If anyone else has had this experience – I am contacting Lawyers for a new suit against Transunion – you should to.
If you go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website – http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports. you will find that they refer you to annualcreditreport.com. So, if it’s a scam, then the federal government is in on it too. I just downloaded (PDF) all 3 of my reports without any problem. I didn’t get any pop up ads and it was very clear on each of the 3 CB’s sites that I could just print or save my report. Yes, there were options to sign up for my credit score, but it was easy to avoid all that and just get my report. Just take your time and read the page. Look for the “print” or “save” buttons. If you can figure out how to navigate all the social media sites, then this should be a breeze.
It just worked for me too. Just need to make sure you follow instructions. If you do not get in after answering security questions, it is probably a good thing and for your own protection…
I just got all three reports for my fiance with no issue. Thank the Lord for this site because it really helped. Seriously, if you can’t get your reports from annualcreditreport.com after reading this site, you should probably go ask someone you trust to help you. Maybe an adult, or someone who graduated highschool, preferably someone who can read and write in english.
I’m no dummy. Two of the three sites I went to vectored me into their pay-for-service subscriptions. From there, click on ‘free report’ and get put back to annualcreditreport.com opening screen. Happily, I did graduate highschool, and college and university twice. But these sites are much less than they make out to be. …and not what Congress intended.
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