San Diego, CA - A new report issued
today by the World Privacy Forum in advance of the March 1
rollout of free credit reports to Midwest residents, shows
that consumers may be better off calling or mailing for
their federally mandated free credit report instead of
going online for it.
Researchers analyzed two areas: The official Web site,
https://www.AnnualCreditReport.com and close misspellings
of the official web site's address to see if any "phishing"
or scam sites had been put online.
The World Privacy Forum study, "Call Don't Click: Why It's
Smarter to Order a Federally Mandated Credit Report via
Phone Instead of the Internet," documents that 96 known
"imposter" domains exist.
'28 of the imposter domains belong to Experian, a credit
'68 of the imposter domains belong to or are hosted at
"pay per click" companies.
'50 of the "pay per click" domains are live, and some are
luring consumers to inappropriate and risky Web sites.
Some of the "pay per click" sites lead consumers to
Experian and other credit companies' commercial sites in
order to cash in on the credit bureaus' affiliate
Additional issues were found at the official
AnnualCreditReport.com site itself. The primary finding
was that the credit bureaus are blurring the lines between
what is free for consumers and what is available for a
For example, the TransUnion section of the
AnnualCreditReport.com site automatically selects
consumers to receive marketing information and have their
information shared with affiliates and partners. Experian
and Equifax have potentially confusing menu navigation
bars that do not clearly distinguish between the free
areas of credit report access and the for-pay sections.
"As a long-time pro-technology advocate, it saddens me to
advise consumers to avoid a legitimate Internet site,"
said Pam Dixon, Executive Director of the World Privacy
Forum and a principal investigator for the report.
"The Internet is a medium I have long recommended to
consumers as a vehicle for advice, research, and consumer
information. If the credit bureaus take to heart the
findings of this report, clear the confusing information
from the AnnualCreditReport.com site and clean up the
imposter domains, my recommendation to avoid the site will
'When phoning the toll free number (877-322-8228) for a
free credit report, ask that only the last four digits of
your SSN are displayed on the reports to be mailed to you.
'If you call for your credit report or have it mailed to
you, have it mailed to a secure mailbox.
'Know that you are not required to give out your email
address in order to obtain a federally mandated free
'If you do choose to go online to https://www.AnnualCreditReport.com
to access your credit report, be absolutely certain that
you have not mistyped the AnnualCreditReport.com address.
If you see pop-up ads or if you notice that the site is
not secure, close your browser and start over. (Secure
sites will have a padlock logo in the corner, and the
address will read "https://" instead of just "http://".)
'If you go online to https://www.AnnualCreditReport.com to
access your TransUnion credit report, be sure to look for
any pre-checked marketing or newsletter offers. If you
decide you do not want these offers, uncheck the box.
For complete findings of the "Call, Don't Click" report
and a consumer tip sheet, see:
Pam Dixon, Executive Director
World Privacy Forum
Beth Givens, Director
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
About the ICFE:
The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation). The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely.
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.
The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.The ICFE was an active partner in the California Student Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) which resulted in a new web site: (studentdebthelp.org). CASDRAP disbanded in 2010, shortly after the web site project was completed. In 2011 the ICFE assumed the single sponsorship of the (studentdebthelp.org) web site and is now responsible for its content and operation.
The ICFE is also an on-line help for consumers who spend too much. ICFE's spending help was featured in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.
Visit the ICFE's other web sites at: www.financial-education-icfe.org and studentdebthelp.org. Both sites helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G, a free eNews, and an online resource center for students, parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools and a book store.