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How to get your free FICO score and avoid getting ripped off

By Joe Taylor Jr.

Updated List Of Free Credit Report Promotional Deals Below

That pirate band from the seafood restaurant has changed its tune. For years, singer-songwriter Eric Violette portrayed the harried lead singer of a musical group forced into a series of dead end jobs and sticky situations because they didn't keep close enough watch over their credit reports. When new federal rules prohibited credit bureaus from marketing "free credit reports" in conjunction with subscription services came out these commercials disappeared from the airways.

Since nearly everything today from getting a mortgage, applying for a credit card, and even getting a job depends on your credit score, where can you get free information about your credit?

Not from the government

Free FICO scores aren't included in the government mandated credit reports offered by AnnualCreditReport.com. That's because the contents of your free credit report are facts, while any credit score results from passing those facts through proprietary risk equations. Although lawmakers like to debate over rules that would make credit scores free to consumers, it still costs money to see the same three-digit numbers that banks use to determine creditworthiness.

Even though most free credit score websites don't offer access to "real" FICO scores, the credit models they use closely resemble the scores that lenders would see when reviewing your credit profile.

So where are good places to look to get your credit score?

TransUnion TrueCredit credit monitoring

When I had to work on building my credit score in advance of a real estate deal last fall, I relied on TrueCredit from TransUnion. They'll give you a full seven days to try out their reporting and monitoring service that pulls data from all three credit bureaus. The brokers and loan officers I dealt with at the time recommended TransUnion because it tends to have the fastest reporting when negative entries fall off your report.

The site also gives you easy tools to help synchronize reports from multiple bureaus. This came in handy when a positive trade line showed up at one bureau, but not the other two. If you just want to grab your free credit scores and bolt, call their toll-free number where an agent will close your account without any hassles. Otherwise, you'll pay about $15 per month in exchange for e-mail updates whenever your credit reports change.

Smart Credit

This remains one of the only places you can get an actual free FICO score along with a credit monitoring program. The Smart Credit website, operated by Credit.com, lets you sample data from myFICO for ten days. It's a little more expensive per month than similar programs, but you're paying to get the actual FICO score that many major lenders review. The site offers add-on bundles that monitor other credit bureaus, with trial offers that range from 7 to 30 days.

GoFreeCredit.com

Consumers still get nervous about dealing directly with any of the three major credit bureaus. That's one reason you might consider GoFreeCredit.com, a credit score monitoring service run by an independent company called Consumer Track. Although you can pay about $20 per month to have the service watch for changes in your credit scores across all three bureaus, you can still cancel your $1 trial offer within seven days. They'll even give you the dollar back. Unlike dozens of other websites that make similar claims, GoFreeCredit has a stellar reputation with the Better Business Bureau for honoring cancellation and refund requests.

Equifax credit report and score

Of all three credit bureaus, Equifax has made some of the strongest inroads into to the commercial lending community with its own credit scoring formulas. The Equifax credit score and monitoring program gives you a full 30 days to cancel, if you don't want to proceed with the service. This stripped-down service gives you a top-level view of how lenders evaluate your risk.

Equifax 3-in-1 credit monitoring

Like the other credit bureaus, Equifax offers its own reporting bundle. This 3-in-1 program offers a feature that simulates what might happen to your credit score if you work through various scenarios. Because the Score Simulator bases its results on your actual credit profile, you'll get a very accurate picture of whether it makes sense to pay down a particular account or to spread some debt out using balance transfers.

Before you sign up for any free FICO score service, check the fine print. Some sites make it harder than others to cancel a required subscription. For example, if you have to cancel by phone, and your free time doesn't match up with the customer service center's operating hours, you should probably consider a competing service. Keep track of the free trials you join, since most credit bureaus will only give you one chance to join and cancel a trial membership. Most credit reports only change every few weeks, so space out your attempts to check your credit score.

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11 Responses to “My free credit report|Free Credit score report|Free FICO Score” 

  1. Joel says:

    Well I did exactly that previously. To search for free credit reports..I went to google and stumbled upon FreeCreditReport.com. I didn't read the disclaimer or even what I was getting myself into. Now, I have a charge on my MasterCard for $14.95 from some company called CIC*Triple Advantage, which I presume is Free Credit Report.

    After having gone back to read the contract, I actually feel pretty stupid. Yeah I did get my free credit report and free Experian credit score, but I should have canceled the trial offer in time. Should have did what you suggested which is to cancel IMMEDIATELY after signing up for the free trial. Yup...lesson learned, read the fine print, and pay attention next time. Chalk that up to experience for next time I suppose. Yeah it's free...but you have to make sure you cancel!

    By the way, took me a while to figure this out...but the customer care department phone number at freecreditreport to cancel is (1-888-829-6560)...after much whining...they finally dropped the $14.95 charge...phew

  2. Raymond says:

    Joel,

    Yes, always make sure you follow the terms and conditions of whatever free credit report offer you intend to pursue. The cancellation terms vary, but so long as you abide by them by canceling upon sign up or before the 7-30 day trial period, you should be able to avoid all unnecessary charges.

    The CIC Triple Advantage charged you indicated indeed came from FreeCreditReport. Glad you were able to remove the charge after some mild wrangling on your part!

  3. Jakers says:

    Ray,

    I scanned through the article, but it was sort of long and extremely detailed...but are you telling me that these free credit report and even free credit score sites like FreeCreditReport.com are perfectly legit? I had always heard that these may be credit report scams but I'm a little still unsure. Where is the most reliable place to get my free credit report without cost? Is it AnnualCreditReport or FreeCreditReport?

    I got my 3 free reports a while back...about 1/2 a year ago through the government site, but now they are telling me that I have used up my limit....

  4. Raymond says:

    Jakers,

    My apologies if I am somewhat long winded when it comes to writing these personal finance blog entries...I just like to pack in all of my thoughts about the subject...

    But in regards to your question, I recommend going through the official free credit report site at annualcreditreport.com first. It's the only official federal government sponsored free credit report site. Under federal law, all U.S. residents are entitled to a free credit report from each of the big three credit rating agencies (for a total of 3 credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) per 12 month period.

    Sites like FreeCreditReport or CreditCheckTotal come in handy when you have completely used up your official annualcreditreport.com allotment for the year. So long as you cancel within the required trial period (may be as short as 7 days), you can truly walk away with your credit report free of charge (but ONLY if you cancel in time). This part is absolutely essential - you MUST cancel in time.

    The vast majority of people who call these trial offers scams are those who forget to cancel in time or those who failed to carefully read what they were getting into before they clicked the "I Agree" button.

    Maybe not in the past, but sites like FreeCreditReport.com do adequately comply with government mandated visual disclosure rules today...but perhaps such disclosure rules may tighten further in the future as needed to protect consumers. But are these types of free credit report offers somewhat misleading to most casual layperson observers? ...Perhaps. However, all free trial offer gimmicks of this kind are somewhat like that. But when used properly, they do yield truly free credit reporting freebies for those looking to game the system.

  5. Holly says:

    Freecreditreport is a scam! How is it free when you have to pay money to get your so called free credit report. If it was really free....there would be no money needed, no contracts, and no catches or gimmicks. These sites are all online scams trying to get your money and laugh their way to the bank while you end up paying monthly charges on a credit monitoring service. I signed up for one of these freecreditreport offers - i think it was Privacy matters 123 and I winded up with a monthly charge on my credit card. It took me days to get them to remove the charge. Yeah I got my free credit scores and supposedly free credit report but it took too much effort. Beware it's not as it seems!!

  6. Daniel says:

    Yes.....FreeCreditReport dot com is pretty shady and the guitar playing guy in their commercials is pretty annoying as well (he's not even American, he's Canadian!) but I wouldn't go so far as to call it an outright scam.

    I actually use freecreditreport to monitor my tri-credit reports and thus far it's done its job. But then I wasn't using it just to get my free credit report or even my free credit score...I actually wanted to use the credit monitoring feature.

    So I guess it all boils down to what your expectations are. If you go in with your eyes closed thinking you can walk away with a freebie with nothing down and no trial commitment, then you will be disappointed. Yeah your credit report and credit score CAN be free, but you have to take part in their marketing game...which is you must sign up and then quickly cancel to avoid paying anything. It's really not that hard. Just sign up and cancel and you pay zippo fees. Same thing with your FICO scores...if you want the real FICO credit score...just visit myFICO.com or Equifax and take part in their ScoreWatch trial periods and cancel in time to walk away with your free FICO credit scores...

  7. Scores says:

    Annualcreditreport.com is the ONLY way to get your free credit reports! It's the only official sponsored source via the federal government. With the official Annaul Credit Report you get 1 free credit report from each of your 3 credit bureau reports once a year - so manage them properly by requesting one every 4 months. By staggering the requests throughout 365 days you'll get a full one year picture of your credit reporting situation in proper intervals. Now if you want 24 hour 7 days a week monitoring, then try a real credit monitoring service like the ones above. That's the only reason anybody ought to utilize PrivacyMatters or CreditCheckTotal etc....for credit report monitoring and not for their free credit reporting services.

  8. CornHusker says:

    I recommend using MYFICO's Score Watch program for credit monitoring rather than FREECREDITREPORT.COM or any of the credit services in this blog. With the ScoreWatch program from MYFICO you get credit score monitoring which also shows important changes to your score and report as they happen.

  9. Laura says:

    Hi, my name is Laura and I am an analyst at Balestriere Lanza, a trials and investigations law firm in New York. I saw your post on expressing a desire to be contacted if any potential class action law suits against Free Credit Report were in the works. Our firm has been investigating Free Credit Report's potential misconduct for several months and would be interested in hearing more from you about your experience. Please feel free to contact me at your convenience at laura.sayler@balestriere.net or at (212) 374-5400 x 133.

  10. Dog Books says:

    Well, I do not agree at a point or two while the remaining appears professional.

  11. Paul says:

    You know, I'm curious as to what the percentage of calls to companies like freecreditreport.com are irate customers who are angry that they found charges on their credit card. A friend of mine fell for this nonsense, and when he called the customer service representative told him that they were perfectly "clear" about the automatic enrollment.

    Now, how exactly print so small you need glasses to read it under massive buttons egging you to procede is "clear" is completely beyond me. And if 90% of the incomming calls (and I'm positive it is actually more) are from customers who had no idea that they were going to be charged, you would think that the management at freecreditreport would think, "hmmm....maybe we ought to make that point a little bigger." Yet they don't....as if their customers wouldn't care. "We'll just barely mention this thing about (what is now) 20 dollar charges to their credit card every month. We can't imagine that it could possibly be important to anyone. So it's not really worthy of anything more than, say, 8 point font. The button that says 'comfirm' (or whatever it is) is WAY more important." PLEASE!!!

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