Are Free Credit Reports Really Free?

Money, Taxes

If you’ve spent any time in front of a TV, you’ve probably seen commercials offering you a free credit report.

But if the credit report is free, how are these companies paying millions for commercials? Learn the truth about free credit report companies and what the law says about them.

Strings attached

Free credit report companies make money by charging you for other services, like credit monitoring (which some argue is worthless).  A common tactic for these companies is to require that you give them your credit card information to get your free report, and then if you don’t cancel within a certain period, you’re automatically billed for their credit monitoring program.  A certain percentage of people never cancel, either because they forgot or they really want the service, and so the “free” credit report company makes money.

Unscrupulous companies make canceling extremely difficult or they are not clear about what you’re getting into.  Really unscrupulous companies are simply perpetrating credit card or identity theft.

The best place for free credit reports

The law says you’re entitled to get one free credit report every year, but companies with “free credit report” in their name are not part of this government law.  There is only one company,, that is part of the government program to give free credit reports.   If you’d like avoid the Internet completely, you can call at 1-877-322-8228.  All other companies are for profit operations hoping to rope people in with “free,” but then ultimately charge them for something.

But isn’t that misleading?

Yes, and now, the producer of many catchy commercials, finds itself in a pickle.  Even though their name is FREE credit report dot com, new regulations mean they have to charge $1 (plus sales tax, where applicable).  But clever marketers that they are, they’ve declared that they won’t keep the one dollar, they’ll donate it to “charitable causes on your behalf” (no, you don’t get to claim it on your taxes)., another outfit accused of bait and switch, is also reportedly charging $1, although I don’t see anything about charity on their website.


Keeping all these “free” credit report outfits straight can be tough, so just bookmark these two pages:

Both of these pages will refer you to, the only site offering truly free reports, and they answer common questions about credit score law.  Remember, it’s best to always click through to from these government sites, because misspelling it can accidentally take you to a scam website.

Commercials claiming to offer free reports commercial (not free): commercial (not free):