'Free' Credit Score Sites Duped Hundreds of Thousands

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Cassandra Hubbart/AOL
A scheme that dangled "free" access to credit scores but then slammed consumers with monthly fees that were tough to drop has been shut down by the Federal Trade Commission, the agency said on Wednesday.

Hundreds of thousands of consumers were taken in, the FTC said, and three companies involved have agreed to refund $22 million under a settlement with the federal government and the attorneys general of Illinois and Ohio. The FTC announcement did not give details about the refund process.

At least 50 sites promoted credit monitoring programs called MyCreditHealth and ScoreSense with the pitch of getting a free credit report and credit score. Among the sites that pitched the offer were FreeScore360.com, FreeScoreOnline.com and ScoreSense.com, the FTC said. The offers were heavily promoted in search engine ads with such claims as: "View your latest Credit Scores from All 3 Bureaus in 60 seconds for $0!"

Slammed With Charges

What consumers weren't told, the FTC said, was that those who signed up to get their credit scores would then be signed up for a credit monitoring service that would charge them every month -- and those fees proved difficult to cancel.

The FTC said at least 210,000 consumers contacted credit card companies, law enforcement, the Better Business Bureau and banks to lodge complaints about how they were duped into the recurring charges.

The companies were charged with violating federal consumer protection laws, the Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act -- a law that requires clear disclosure of the terms of an agreement when a consumer provides billing information -- as well as the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act.

The charges were filed against One Technologies LP, also doing business as ScoreSense, One Technologies Inc., and MyCreditHealth; One Technologies Management LLC; and One Technologies Capital LLP.

What You Should Do

One way to avoid succumbing to such scams is to be aware that anytime you provide payment information, you run the risk of getting charged. Free trial offers that require consumers to include credit card or bank account information most often come with a catch.

The catch is that most of the time "free" isn't free. And, often, the terms include requiring the consumer to cancel within a brief period or charges will begin.
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