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Consumer
A free credit report can cost you 14.95month
NEW YORK (11/11/09)--Although consumers can request free credit reports online at annualcreditreport.com, many are being lured to other sites, such as freecreditreport.com (an Experian company) and ultimately are paying for unnecessary monthly credit-monitoring fees (The New York Times Nov. 3). Multiple sites advertise “free” credit reports, but you’re actually enrolling in a service that will monitor any changes in your credit reports. The only way to get the report at no cost from these sites is to cancel the service during the trial period. And it appears that not many are cancelling. Some nine million consumers are spending nearly $700 million annually on these services, according to Carter Malloy, a Stephens Inc. analyst. So what does $14.95 a month in credit monitoring get you? Most offers bundle a copy of your credit report with a credit score (a three-digit number, based on the history in your credit report) with e-mail alerts of changes to your credit report through at least one credit bureau. Yes, credit monitoring will tell you what’s being reported to your credit history. No, it won’t prevent credit card fraud or identity theft. If someone else is using your credit card, you’ll see the charges on your statement, not in a credit report. Credit report monitoring could, however, spot an unauthorized loan or credit card opened in your name. Bottom line: Unless you’ve been a victim of identity theft, daily credit report monitoring is probably unnecessary. “I knew they had roped me into this thing after I started getting these e-mails,” says Philip Neustrom in an interview with The New York Times. After six months, Neustrom cancelled the Experian service—never once having used the monitoring. “There are only so many things you can do in a day,” he added. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) of 2003 requires each of the three major credit bureaus to provide one free annual credit report to consumers requesting a copy. The government-authorized site, annualcreditreport.com, is a portal that sends consumers to one of three bureaus for a free report. Still, be on your guard. Once at an individual credit bureau’s site, you’ll most likely be offered additional services for a charge. You can, however, take a pass, getting just your free credit report. Since you’re entitled to a free annual report from each bureau, you can stagger them throughout the year for continuous monitoring. For more information about managing credit, view the “Build Your Best Credit Score” video in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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