The Federal Trade Commission along with the Attorneys General of Illinois and Ohio has announced a settlement with three companies that marketed what the companies advertised as free credit scores and then billed the unsuspecting customers $29.95 per month for credit monitoring services that they neither wanted nor knew that they had ordered. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants will be refunding 22 million dollars to scammed customers. The companies marketed their programs MyCreditHealth and ScoreSense through at least fifty websites and bought advertising on Google and Bing that would appear high on a list when consumers looked for “free credit reports.” One of their misleading ads read “View your latest Credit Scores from All 3 Bureaus in 60 seconds for $0.” In the fine print of their agreement, the companies were able to bill the consumers’ credit cards until the customers called to cancel their membership. Even then, the companies, in many instances did not cancel the contract until after repeated calls.
It is important to note that a credit report and a credit score are not the same thing. Your credit report, which you have a right to a free annual copy of at each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Transunion and Experian does not contain your FICO credit score which is derived from the information in your credit report and used by companies to measure your creditworthiness. There are many companies that also promise free copies of your credit report only to do the same scam of charging you hidden monthly fees for additional services. The only website to use for your free credit report is www.annualcreditreport.com. You should also be wary of any company that offers something free and then asks for your credit card. This is a red flag that what you are ordering is not free. There are no websites that offer your actual FICO credit score at no charge although there are a number of websites including CreditKarma, CreditSesame and Quizzle that will provide a free approximation of your score sometimes called a FAKO score that can be helpful.