Are Free Credit Reports Reliable?

Are Free Credit Reports Reliable?
Mike Randall
By: Mike Randall
Posted: June 20, 2013
Experts share their tips and advice daily on, helping subprime consumers navigate the world of personal finance.

So you’re interested in knowing what your credit report says but don’t want to shell out any cash for it, right? No problem.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) passed by Congress, all American consumers have the right to receive a copy of their credit report once per year – for free.

So it should be simple. Well, that’s where you’d be mistaken. There are free credit reports and there are “free” credit reports.

Let me explain….

The Federal Trade Commission is the government agency that is responsible for enforcing the FCRA with respect to the three major credit reporting agencies.

The agencies, in being forced to comply, put together a request system they all maintain and use to deliver the requests for annual free credit reports.

The website for this system is: It is the only authorized and sanctioned free credit report website, and it includes credit information from all three agencies.

Of course, there are other companies who purport to offer “free” credit reports to consumers, but they are often scams.

According to the FTC’s own website, “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.”

“A free credit report can be reliable if

you get it from the right source.”

Another problem with requesting your free credit report is there is confusion among consumers as to just what they will be getting.

Many times someone who requests a copy of their free credit report is really looking for their credit score. A credit report contains personal information about you and your financial dealings, but it does not contain your credit score.

Knowing this and realizing access to your credit score is not part of the FCRA, some companies offer free credit scores to the public.

The problem is they are useless.

You see, your credit score usually refers to your FICO score, and that number is proprietary.

Companies who want to access it and provide it to you have to pay for that right. They aren’t going to then offer it to you for free. Are they?

Instead, they offer their own type of credit score or an “estimation” of your FICO score based on their own interpretations. These scores can vary dramatically from the FICO score a potential lender will see.

To summarize, a free credit report can be reliable, accurate and useful to you if you get it from the right source.

For more information about your free credit report and all of the ways you can access it, visit the Federal Trade Commission website. It’s one example of the government looking out for the interests of consumers. Good luck!