PRIVACY + SECURITY BLOG

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The Free Credit Reports That Aren’t Free

Free Credit Report

You’ve probably seen the commericals, which run incessantly on CNN and other cable channels. A happy young man says: “I’m thinking of a number . . . ” That number is a credit score, which you can obtain at a website called FreeCreditReport.com. You probably have heard that under a new federal law, credit reporting agencies are required to provide each person with a free credit report once a year. That website, however, has the much more obscure name AnnualCreditReport.com. I previously blogged about my experiences using AnnualCreditReport.com. One of the problems is that if you don’t know that the correct website is AnnualCreditReport.com, then it is very easy to go to the FreeCreditReport.com website. After all, it is featured quite prominently in a Google search for “free credit report.”

But there’s one catch — it ain’t free. Far from it. From the fine print:

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FTC: Letting Experian Keep the Spoils

Free Credit Report

Suppose a company engages in an unfair and deceptive trade practice. It makes about $1 billion. The FTC investigates. A settlement is reached for a fine of $1 million and refunds to only some customers — yielding a net penalty of several million dollars — just a fraction of the spoils. That’s deterrence . . . FTC style!

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