The free credit score fantasy

The credit score may be free, but the credit monitoring services are not.

Knowing your credit score is invaluable information. Finding out what your credit score is free, is priceless. Some reputable companies manage websites where credit scores can be obtained for free. However, many companies use a free credit score to lure consumers into paying for monthly subscriptions to credit monitoring services.

On these sites, consumers are asked to provide their name, social security number and birth date. The websites do not clearly disclose the details of obtaining the score. Consumers may not realize that there is a requirement to cancel within the seven day ‘trial period’ or be charged a monthly subscription fee. Often, the disclosures are written in tiny print or are not easily visible on the page. Also, it is often difficult for the customers to cancel the service after it is started. Many companies are uncooperative in canceling the subscriptions and continue to debit the customers’ bank accounts or charge their credit cards; they also refuse to give refunds.

Informed consumers should read the fine print before requesting a credit score. The credit score may be free, but there may be other obligations that come with a cost. Consumers should avoid any website where the disclosures are not found or are hard to read.

Consumers should be clear about the credit score that they are requesting. There are many types of credit scores in use. Two of the most-utilized scores are the FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) and the VantageScore. The three major credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and Transunion) created TheVantageScore. TheVantageScore is not as widely used in the economic community; the FICO is the most predominately used and accepted credit score. In most cases, the consumer will want to request the FICO score.

Michigan State University Extension educators advise consumers to develop a clear understanding of the disclosure details before requesting a credit score. If you are asked to submit any personal billing information to receive a free credit score, the score is likely not actually free.

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