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Deceptive Practices Used by Experian's FreeCreditReport.Com

The companies behind credit monitoring services have resorted to underhanded techniques to get new customers. Perhaps it is because some of their services are a tough sell through traditional means.

You'll find Experian behind most of the deception documented here. However all three credit bureaus have played games in pushing their credit monitoring services.

Ultimately, it comes to this: If you can't make an honest living with your service, perhaps you're in the wrong business.

  • Experian (CIC TripleAdvantage/FreeCreditReport.com) in Constant Legal Hot Water, Fined $1.25 Million

    In August 2005, Experian was ordered by the FTC to pay $950,000 in refunds of thousands of consumer's enrollment fees as a result of a class action lawsuit. Radio, television and Internet advertising was promising a "free credit report in seconds..." and "30 FREE days of the Credit Check Monitoring Service at no obligation." However, the Internet sites did not adequately explain that failing to cancel before the end of the 30 day trial period would lead to an $80 charge for a year of credit monitoring. In February 2007, Experian was fined an additional $300,000 for failing to comply with the terms of the settlement.

    Meanwhile, Experian credit monitoring units have got themselves into other trouble:

    • In November 2006, the Florida Attorney General opened an investigation covering several Experian units, including freecreditreport.com (CIC TripleAdvantage). In addition to the usual charges, the office is looking into complaints that the company regularly fails to honor customer requests to cancel their credit monitoring services.

       

    • The Northeast Indiana Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued an "urgent warning" about freecreditreport.com in February 2007. It had received 2,448 complaints about the company. Many complain that in addition to being billed after canceling the service, they never received the free credit report for which they came to the site in the first place.

       

    • A class action lawsuit against Experian companies has reached a proposed settlement. The terms of the settlement are controversial. All that consumers receive is either a free credit score or two months of credit monitoring. Fail to cancel the credit monitoring and expect to be charged $9.95 a month. By the way, the plaintiff lawyers who negotiated this weak settlement are set to walk away with $2.5 million in fees.

     

  • CIC TripleAdvantage "Accidentally" Failing to Cancel Free Trials

    My wife and myself have personally experienced this: Each of us enrolled in a free credit monitoring trial, cancelled before the end of the 30 day period and, surprise, the $12.95 fee appeared on our credit card statements the next month.

    FreeCreditReport.com is the web site and we are not the only ones TripleAdvantage has taken advantage of. There are thousands of similar complaints to be found on the Internet and the Better Business Bureau hears them non-stop. Many readers have reported similar experiences with this company.

     

  • Registering Misleading Internet Addresses

    When federal law mandated credit companies to provide one free credit report per year to consumers, an official web site was created for that purpose: http://www.annualcreditreport.com. At that time, the three credit agencies rushed out and bought similar domain names and misspellings of the real domain name to fool consumers into purchasing a credit report and enroll in credit monitoring services. http://www.freecreditreport.com and http://www.annualcreditreports.com are good examples of this.

    In fact, more than 233 so-called "typo" Internet addresses have been purchased, 28 of them by Experian according to the "Call Don't Click" campaign by the World Privacy Center. This group and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, encourage you to request your free credit report by phone or mail primarily because of the risk posed by these imposter sites. The World Privacy Center also offers a tipsheet on safely ordering your free credit report if you do choose to order it over the Internet.

     

  • Congress Creates New Laws in Response to Experian's Marketing Practices

    The confusion between AnnualCreditReport.Com and FreeCreditReport.Com alleged by the FTC, state attorneys general and others led congress to create new disclosure laws. Experian responded by charging $1 for a credit report at FreeCreditReport.Com.

    The Credit CARD Act of 2009 included provisions for companies offering free credit reports. Among other things, it requires them to include a prominent button that says "Take me to the Authorized Source" of free credit reports, AnnualCreditReport.com.

    Experian got around the requirements by $1 for a credit report. Enrollment in TripleAdvantage still applies.

    Read complete coverage in Knowzy's FreeCreditReport.Com is No Longer Free.

     

 

Originally Published:  Friday, August 11, 2006, 5:00 PM PT

Last Updated:  Saturday, July 16, 2011, 7:22 PM PT

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