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Confusion over free annual credit reports

You’ve probably heard by now that you are entitled to a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. There is some confusion out there, though, about where to go online to make your request(s), and also about what you can expect to receive.

AnnualCreditReport.com (www.annualcreditreport.com) is the official site, and the only official site, through which you may order your report(s) online at no charge.

Don’t be fooled by imposters out there! One example is www.FreeCreditReport.com, which beckons, “Get Your Free Credit Report and Score!” Reading the small print, though, you learn that by ordering your “free” report from this site, you are actually beginning a trial membership that must be cancelled within 7 days. If you don’t, you will incur an automatic monthly charge of $14.95 until you do remember to cancel it.

FICO score not included. Another misconception is that your free report will actually give you your FICO score. It will not. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows the credit bureaus to charge a “reasonable fee” for this additional service, which at last look amounted to $7.95 at each of the three major bureaus. You can order your score at the same time that you request your free report.

Keep in mind that, FICO score or not, it’s always a good idea to routinely monitor your credit report, to be sure it doesn’t contain errors that may one day disadvantage you.

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