We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

How do I Recognize Annual Credit Report Scams?

By Dale Marshall
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

If you’re trying to get your free annual credit report and you’re asked to pay for anything, provide a credit card number, or enroll in a “free trial” subscription to anything at all, you’re probably dealing with a scammer. The free annual credit report guaranteed to you by US law is available only through the website established for that purpose by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Links to this website are provided by thousands of legitimate enterprises nationwide as a courtesy, without charge or obligation. Obtaining accurate information about your credit report is an important part of controlling your financial life, but there are plenty of malefactors — from unscrupulous business operators to outright thieves — who are trying to use your prudence against you. Knowing how they operate will help you protect yourself from them.

Annual credit report scams are run primarily by the credit bureaus themselves. Even though they're legitimate businesses, they've been caught trying to trick consumers into paying for what’s supposed to be a free annual credit report. After enactment of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, misleading but very entertaining television commercials promoted a “free” credit report, but consumers who logged onto the site found they were being pressured into enrolling in a credit monitoring service promoted by one of the credit bureaus. It was impossible to get the free report without enrolling in the "Free trial" subscription. If you canceled the service, you usually wouldn’t get charged, but if you forgot to cancel, your credit card was charged, and the credit bureau got paid for having provided you with what was supposed to be a free credit report.

Variations on this approach are attempted by other annual credit report scams. Like the credit bureaus, they try to trick you into accepting a service they offer, usually by disguising it as a “free trial,” and linking the free report to acceptance of the free trial. The free trial may be credit monitoring or some other financial service, such as banking or even another credit card. They then do their best to keep you from canceling the free trial until they can charge your credit card.

Some annual credit report scams, though, are operated by flat-out thieves. When applying for your free annual credit report, it’s this group that can most severely damage you. Generally indistinguishable from the second group — the legitimate enterprises trying to trick you into patronizing them — they’re really phishing scams that will use the data you provide to loot your existing accounts and to apply for new credit using that data. Their websites may look professional until you read their content, which often consists of terribly written copy with many grammatical and spelling errors.

The law says that each of the three credit reporting agencies is required, upon request, to provide you with a free credit report once a year. You can stagger the reports so that you receive a new one every four months. This can only be done through a single annual credit report website, operated by the FTC. There’s no need to go through an intermediary and expose yourself to one of the many annual credit report scams.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.