Are free credit score offers real? They pop up in your inbox and appear as texts and seem like a good idea. But you might want to click delete.
It’s pretty confusing because there are a lot of companies using similar names and offering you services that supposedly provide your credit report and credit score regularly.
Most say they offer free credit scores and you might not need their service. Maybe you want to save the $29.95 a month, or whatever they charge.
This is what you need to know.
A credit score is different than a credit report. You generally have to pay to get your credit score.
This service is provided by the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Each company is required by law to offer a free report once a year.
So they pooled their efforts to create one service and now you can get a free report three times a year through AnnualCreditReport.com.
Your credit report is a record of your credit and payment history: how many credit cards you have, whether you pay on time, whether you pay medical bills, if you have bankruptcies, if you pay child support, in some cases your rent payment history and more.
Norm Magnuson of the Consumer Data Industry Association says, “We encourage people to get their free credit report because it’s the basis on which the credit score is built. And it provides consumers with a good idea of their credit worthiness.”
WHAT’S A CREDIT SCORE?
A credit score is a statistical evaluation of what’s on your credit report and Magnuson points out that different companies calculate credit scores different ways.
So getting the score from one company may not help you at all. He says, “The scores are sold to lenders by companies like FICO that compile them. And then lenders often add their own formula to create a score that they use.”
As an example Manguson explains, “Let’s say you get something that says your score is 740. That could be an A score with one lender and an A minus with another lender.”
Getting your free report, instead of paying to get your score, allows you to work on improving your credit by paying bills you may not have realized you have, or correcting errors on the report.
In the meantime, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions against what it calls “Imposter Sites” that offer free scores or credit reports. The FTC says, “…websites that claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores,” or “free credit monitoring” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly “free” service that converts to one you have to pay for after a trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card.”
As for the companies offering these services. We called and sent emails to one that uses several domain names and haven’t received an answer.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Try hitting the delete button the next time an ad pops up. Better safe than sorry.