For the majority of adults, the importance of maintaining a good credit history and score is well-understood. How to acquire that information without paying, however, can be difficult. The law states that everyone is entitled to a free annual credit report, but the Internet is filled with companies that claim these reports are free. However, charges for monthly monitoring often follow. The trick, then, is to find the “real” free reports by reading the fine print which will help identify those that are scams or practice deceit.
Many sites now provide one free report limited to only one of the major tracking agencies followed by additional charges for reports from the other reporting agencies along with monthly monitoring. These can be difficult to identify, however, unless care is taken prior to signing up. Although many people call them scams because the actual charges are buried within the verbiage, when charges are listed somewhere in the terms and conditions or on the detail pages contained in a website they are not legally considered scams. The main problem is that people rarely read the fine print before they sign up.
This is still considered deceitful practices because they count on people not reading everything before they file a request. One way to tell if sites are practicing this type of strategy is to take note if they ask for a credit card number along with other personal information. If a credit card is required then you can bet that some charges will be applied at some point. Generally, these are automatically assessed on a monthly basis and are very difficult if not impossible to stop.
When a person agrees to allow automatic deductions from a credit or debit card from any service provider, only the provider can stop the payments. This can be very difficult since many companies today rely on this consistency in monthly income in order to turn a profit. For many people this means cancelling checking, savings, and credit cards accounts in order to ensure the withdrawals stop which can not only be inconvenient, but also frustrating.
Determining the tactics used to draw online users into signing up is one way to identify companies that should be avoided. One tactic many companies in this industry use is visual confusion on their web pages. Since people today have been condition by visual stimuli colors, shapes, pictures, and other strategies are utilized to hide pertinent information so that people sign up before they fully understand the terms and conditions. Additionally, by clicking “I agree” before reading the terms and conditions they may be opening themselves up for long-term monthly charges they had not counted on.
Complaints can be filed against such companies through the Better Business Bureau and other agencies, but in order to do so consumers must prove they acted responsibly and that the information needed to make an informed decision was, in fact, hidden. Saving terms and conditions in a separate file that can be forwarded along with the complaint will serve as the proof required. Therefore, reading this document completely in advance is important.
Although, according many of these sites, cancellation can be made at any time, it’s often more difficult than described. For many sites phone calls with written follow-up is required, but must be made within a set number of days; usually 30. Additionally, even though consumers are told they will be notified by email, this does not always occur so checking monthly credit card statements is important in order to avoid multiple charges. Ultimately, the best way to protect one’s self from fraudulent or deceitful credit reporting company practices is to read the fine print and use caution when authorizing automatic payments.