Recently the FTC cracked down on companies advertising free credit reports. These companies — the credit bureaus — created confusion between the government’s truly free AnnualCreditReport.com and their own websites that advertised free credit reports but sometimes nefariously charged customers’ credit cards after a trial period expired for a service they didn’t realize they signed up for. After the FTC determined that companies can no longer advertise free credit reports, the industry shifted to offering different products, like $1 credit reports and free credit scores.
There is a lot not to like about the free credit score services. Nevertheless, it’s great to know your credit score before you attempt to qualify for a mortgage or other loan. It’s best to be able to anticipate any problems before you need to rely on your credit score, so getting your information in advance can give you an opportunity to correct any errors or resolve any negative items.
GoFreeCredit is a company offering credit scores from each of the three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Each bureau uses its own slightly different calculation to determine your credit score, and each may still differ further from the FICO score, the credit score used by most lenders to determine your risk profile and your interest rates. Even though there are some differences, the more numbers you have, the better understanding you can get of how the financial industry sees you.
With GoFreeCredit, you can receive a score from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion when you enroll in their program called “Triple Score Complete.” This is a $19.95 per month service, but it’s free for 7 days. If you do not want to pay $19.95 and take advantage of what is offered under Triple Score Complete, you must cancel before the 7 day trial period is over. This short period of time worries me, because if there is a delay between the day you initiate the cancellation to the day the company processes your request, you could easily go beyond the 7 calendar-day period, prompting the first $19.95 charge. THe best course of action is to register, verify your identity, access your credit scores, and cancel immediately if you do not wish to enroll in Triple Score Complete.
If you do wish to enroll, you will receive these services:
- Information from the three credit bureaus
- Your updated credit scores
- Credit monitoring and alerts
- See your 3 updated credit scores online instantly, and I’m not sure how number 4 is different than number 2
Although it’s vague, I later determined the “information” included in number one refers to a consolidated credit report and tips from each bureau, as you’ll see later. I don’t see how number four in the list above is different than number two, but I suppose four points seem to be more of a value than three.
Credit monitoring and alerts can be useful services, but not for everyone. Many years ago, someone I knew had her identity stolen and damaged — by her father — and she locked down her credit. If you believe you’re more at risk for identity theft than average, credit monitoring could give you peace of mind. If you’ve had your identity stolen, credit monitoring is the minimum you should do to protect yourself.
When you sign up, you will be charged or debited with a refundable $1 processing fee, and you’re reminded in very small print that you’ll need to cancel within seven days to avoid the $19.95 charge. In order to cancel, GoFreeCredit provides a phone number to call, but you should also be able to cancel by accessing your account online. I went through this process, and this is what I experienced.
After entering my credit card information to verify my identity, GoFreeCredit presented me with another service to accept or decline. I declined the free Public Records File, another $19.95 trial service with a 7-day trial period. I can easily see customers accepting this deal (using the big button) and not realizing there’s an option to decline this extra service. It always pays to read, then click. After declining, I was provided my membership ID, which I copied to another window on the computer in case I needed it to log into the website later.
Continuing, I was brought to another site to create a user name and confirm my identity — although the stated purpose for entering my credit card information was to verify my identity in addition to charging the refundable $1 and having a payment method on record if I were to not cancel — using my Social Security number. On the new secure website, CeditScoreComplete, I proceeded to provide the information typically requested to verify my identity, such as old addresses. I noticed at this point at CreditScoreComplete is a service of TransUnion, so while at first this seemed to be an independent third party service, it is actually operated by one of the credit bureaus.
The identity confirmation process was easy, and the site quickly provided links to a consolidated credit report and my credit scores.
The consolidated report was actually very interesting. I could easily see the differences between my reports from the three bureaus, and there was some interesting differences. Each bureau had a different number of open and closed accounts, for one thing. My credit scores had a range of less than 1%, with Equifax being the lowest to TransUnion with the highest, with all scores in the “Very Good” range, the highest in GoFreeCredit’s evaluation. The score listing also included tips from each of the bureaus for improving my score, and each bureau offered different suggestions, like “Not Enough Revolving Debt Experience” (TransUnion), “Too Many Inquiries” (Experian), and, “Not Enough Premium Bankcards” (Equifax).
Immediately after reviewing my information, I printed out what I wanted to keep, and looked for the option to cancel membership — something you may or may not wish to do. If the ongoing services are worthwhile to you, then do not cancel. I did not see any way to access my account information from this location, so I started over. I opened the confirmation email I received and used the link within to log in. I clicked on the “My Account” link at the top of the page and easily found the “Cancel Membership” option. The service warned me there would be a waiting period before I would be allowed to check my credit scores for free, but I continued with the cancellation.
I didn’t however, see the option to cancel the $1 “refundable fee” that GoFreeCredit initially charged to sign up, so I will be monitoring my credit card account to see when this is processed. I will update this review once I have confirmed the three credit scores I viewed for free were, in fact, free.
GoFreeCredit.com no longer charges a $1 fee during their trial period.
First update, four days later
After signing up for GoFreeCredit and canceling my membership, I began receiving repeated phone calls from 888-493-5692. The first call was at 8:47 AM on a weekday, and the calls continued once daily. The caller did not leave a message at any time. I didn’t connect the calls with my short-lived membership with GoFreeCredit until I decided to answer the fourth phone call from the number. After I answered the phone, there was a delay — the type I recognize from automated dialers that notify a live representative once a call has been connected. A gentleman responded and asked for me by name, and I asked him to identify himself. The caller was a representative from GoFreeCredit who wanted to help me understand any potentially negative items on my credit report. He could not confirm why he would be calling after I canceled my membership.
Updated October 30, 2011 and originally published May 26, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.