There is an endless stream of “free” credit report offers that hit us from day to day online, on TV, and really everywhere you go for that matter. The problem is, according to extensive research, every single one of them contains some sort of catch in order for you to obtain your report. It’s not always money. There is only one exception that I am aware of. Well… actually two ;o)
First, let me tell you about some of those little hooks that are inevitably hidden among the hype.
• The infamous Credit Score bait
Revealing the coveted credit score is hands down the most popular hook for reeling you in. Right off the bat, know that the free credit report solicitation will probably require a credit card as soon as you make it known that you also want your score along withyour credit history. You should also know that there are numerous ‘models’ or algorithms that different credit agencies and industries use to come up with your score depending on the end use. For example the popular website 'CreditKarma' will provide a score, but it is generally accepted that those scores are not used by lenders. So even if you do get a score, it may not reflect the one you’re inquiring about. How exactly these guys calculate your score is automated and incredibly complex. Your credit score reflects a snapshot in time and changes day to day, and perhaps even minute to minute. It remains an enigma to the world for the most part. Sure, we know generally how the game is played, but don’t count on ever patently figuring it out unless you’re a mad scientist. Even then, it’ll change as soon as you become enlightened.
• Credit Monitoring
Identity theft is huge and will always be a problem to some extent. There will always be thieves who are perpetually one step ahead. Credit reporting agencies of course know this and realize that everything today revolves around electronic purchases and info gathering in one way or another. Therefore, they have the means to intimately trackevery single one of your purchases and credit inquiries. Enter the credit monitoring fee. I’m in no way saying this is a bad thing and may be well worth the money. What I am saying is that this is one of the tradeoff ploys used in exchange for getting your free credit report. Rather than buying into a credit monitoring service, I recommend employing a reputable, dedicated identity protection company. They will not only monitor your credit, they will typically guarantee your protection by offering to pay for damages incurred should your identity be compromised. Way more bang for your buck! I do have a recommendation for identity theft protection so if you’d like to know, just hit me up (I have no affiliations with them).
• The ‘No Credit Card’ hook
This one’s probably the most tantalizing hook. But, in my opinion it’s downright sneaky. Kind of like one of those magic tricks where you can’t help but say “That’s simply impossible”!! Remember in my introduction when I said that it’s not always money they want. Yeah you guessed it! They want your name… and your social security number… and your phone number… and your address… and, and, and. Buried somewhere within the terms of service, you’ll eventually give your permission for them to sell your information to advertising agencies. What better scheme to allow them to craft an incredibly targeted advertising campaign for you and you alone?!?! They’ve got everything…. Where you buy, when you buy, what you buy, how much you pay… just think, maybe even what color and type of underwear you prefer! Companies pay TALL CASH to these guys to divulge your personal information and purchasing habits. And you willingly agreed via the fine print!
The One & Only Solution**
In 2003 congress passed FACTA (Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act), an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This provision federally mandated that ‘The Big Three’, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian offer ALL consumers access to their credit report truly for FREE, no strings attached, PERIOD.
AnnualCreditReport.com is the official and ONLY federally mandated and authorized source to obtain a free credit report. Once there, you will have the option of ordering from all three of the bureaus once per year just as the URL suggests. While you do have the option, I don’t recommend pulling all three at once. Rather, I would suggest that you order one report from each bureau every four months thereby covering yourself for the year. In essence you become your own credit monitor, FOR FREE. You won’t have to worry about the credit pull event dinging your score as it’s a ‘soft inquiry’ by law. It will not affect your score in any way. The only down side to this method is that you won’t get your scores with this service without paying for them. And again, even if you do pay they may not reflect the pertinent score for which you’re inquiring. However, if you’re intent upon getting your scores, you’ll be given an option to enter a credit card and this is the one place where I think it’s safe to pay for them.
**The One Other Exception
So I told you earlier there was one other exception. Of course, it involves you bringing your mortgage business our way. If you mention this post and close your loan with us, the credit report is free and you get a copy along with the scores used for home lending purposes. So there’s that… LOL!
Question: Do you have a question regarding your credit? If so, comment below and we'll do our best to answer your inquiry as best we can!
Disclosure: The links provided herein are for informational purposes only. I do not guarantee the validity of the link nor do I warranty their services, expressly or implied.