It's been seven years since credit bureaus have been required by law to provide Americans with annual access to their credit reports, at no charge; but the the AnnualCreditReport.com web site created to manage the process has been overshadowed by a variety of companies claiming they can offer "free" credit health reports leaving many consumers confused and out of money they could have spent elsewhere. But as of April 1, 2010 new rules went into effect regulating the behavior of these so-called "credit health" companies:
- Any website offering consumers a free credit report must disclose the fact that consumers are entitled to a free annual credit report and can do so by visiting the www.annualcreditreport.com website or calling the toll-free number.
- Any website offering consumers a free credit report must include a link to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and annualcreditreport.com websites prominently on their website.
- Credit bureaus are now required to refrain from offering consumers services or products until after they have completed their request for their free annual credit report.
Starting September 1, 2010, any company marketing free credit reporting services on television or radio must include prominent disclosures about trial offers and refer consumers to the annualcreditreport.com website and toll free number, letting them know they entitled to receive a free credit report and can do so by visiting the website or calling the phone number.
To avoid the experience of many consumers who find themselves out of money after visiting so-called "free" credit report websites make sure you request your annual credit report through www.annualcreditreport.com only and avoid handing over your credit card information to credit report companies offering "free" trials and other promotions.