A reader e-mailed to say he had come across an ad on Funny for one of those outfits that proposes to provide free credit reports from all three reporting agencies, but which hooks you in to a subscription whereby you end up paying a monthly fee for “credit rating monitoring.” Please be careful. Do not order “free” credit reports from any such lash-up: it’s a scam. While you do get the free credit reports—which you can get for yourself online very easily—paying someone to monitor your credit reports is unnecessary.
Here’s why: By law, each of the three credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and Transunion, is required to give you a free credit report once a year. Because there are three agencies, you can monitor your own status, for free, simply by asking for a report from one of them every four months. If you then review your bills and checking account statements each month, you will protect yourself just fine against identity theft. For free.
To get free credit reports without anyone trying to lure you into an expensive scam, go to AnnualCreditReport.com. This site was commissioned by the three credit reporting companies to provide the three annual credit reports mandated by law. You can request your report online, by phone, or by snail-mail.
You don’t have to ask for all three at once. So, if you order one in January, one in April, and one in August, you can cause the system to monitor your credit rating, allowing you to check for anything strange on a regular basis. It’s easy to put reminders in Outlook, iCal, or even Quicken to tell yourself when to call up a new report and which agency to ask.
Apparently different ads come up on different computers. I haven’t seen any such advertisement on my Mac; otherwise I’d get AdSense to block it.