FTC losing patience with deceptive 'free credit report' offers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been tightening the screws on the consumer credit reporting business in recent months, with moves designed to clarify consumer rights and punish websites that mislead consumers about so-called free credit reports.

The FTC announced this week proposed revisions to the notices consumer reporting agencies provide to consumers under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The proposed changes are designed to simplify the Summary of Rights notice, which informs consumers about their FCRA rights, such as how to obtain a free credit report and dispute inaccurate information in those reports.

In late July, the FTC fired a warning shot across the bow of 18 websites offering free credit reports. Typically, these sites promise free credit reports to fool consumers into signing up for credit-monitoring and other services -- even though free credit reports with no strings attached are available via a government–mandated site, AnnualCreditReport.com.

Under the recently amended Free Credit Reports Rule, the FTC ordered any websites offering free credit reports to prominently display on their websites the following notice:

You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com
or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under federal law.

The amended rule went into effect April 2, but several months later, many of these "free credit report" sites continue to ignore the FTC mandate and mislead consumers into signing up for services they didn't need to obtain something already offered for free elsewhere. So in late July, the FTC sent warning letters to 18 of these sites, ordering them to clearly disclose the availability of truly free credit reports or face fines up to $3,500 per violation.

Warning letters were sent to the following sites:
  • NationalCreditReport.com
  • FreeCreditReport4U.com
  • MyCreditCenter.com
  • 3CreditReport.com
  • OnlineFreeCreditReports.com
  • My3BureauCreditReport.com
  • FreeScore.com
  • Free3BureauCreditReport.com
  • FreeTripleCreditScore.com
  • FreeOnlineReportNow.com
  • GoFreeCredit.com
  • FreeCredit-Reports.net
  • Free-Credit-Reports-Repair.com
  • FreeCredit-Report.net
  • SmartCredit.com
  • 3FreeCreditReportsUSA.com
  • AllFreeCreditReports.com
  • FreeCreditReportsUSA.com

For more information about how to obtain a free credit report under federal law, visit the FTC's site.
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