Founder Curtis Arnold Weighs in on New Restrictions to Free Credit Report Offers

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The Federal Trade Commission has taken regulatory steps to curtail misleading offers for free credit reports. highlights the major rule changes and their effects on consumers who seek information about their credit reports.

It's unfortunate that some companies have taken advantage of people's desire to manage their credit reports as a way to sneak in unwanted services.

Curtis Arnold, founder of consumer education site, weighed in on the implications of new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules governing free credit report offers, which took effect April 2.

The FTC imposed rules on companies that offer services using free credit reports as an incentive to attract customers. The new regulations require that free credit report offers clearly differentiate themselves from the Web site, through which individuals are entitled to free credit report information annually. The regulations also restrict advertising and paid offers on

Arnold, a nationally recognized consumer educator and advocate, says the new laws are a boon to consumers. "I think this is a positive step for consumers. As the editor of, I have always strived to promote awareness of one's own credit reports and credit scores. It's unfortunate that some companies have taken advantage of people's desire to manage their credit reports as a way to sneak in unwanted services. The end result has been major confusion among consumers."

Since 2003, Americans have had the right to a free annual credit report at with no strings attached. Other sites have since proliferated, claiming to offer credit reports for free. In actuality, these sites--which frequently ask for consumers' private information and credit card numbers--often tack on trial offers for credit monitoring services or even unrelated items such as magazine subscriptions that are billed later. These extras are not always prominently disclosed, and consumers are further misled by advertising that reinforces the claim that these credit reports are free.

Offering something for free in order to get you to try and perhaps buy a service is a legitimate marketing technique, and reputable firms make cancellation and/or refunds easy to get. Yet many who sign up for free credit report offers--only to be billed for services they did not want--report poor experiences or even scams.

Because the operative word here is "free," those who charge for credit reports are not subject to the new regulations. Arnold explains how some companies are taking advantage of this: "Be mindful that some companies, including respected credit bureaus, have already developed clever ways to avoid the FTC's regulations. For example, the popular site that is owned by Experian (the one with the catchy little TV commercial jingles and three hapless guys) is now charging customers $1 and then donating the $1 to charity.

"Pretty creative way to dodge the law and tout your charitable efforts, don't you think?"

A new article on explains common tactics of companies offering free credit report services, as well as the ways in which the FTC rules should curtail practices that mislead consumers. In particular, the FTC now requires that:

  •     Sites advertising free credit reports prominently disclose to consumers that they are entitled to an annual credit report through or through a designated toll-free number;
  •     These sites offer clickable links to the Federal Trade Commission and Web sites;
  •     The three major credit bureaus participating in the Web site delay advertising or paid upgrade offers until after a consumer has completed his or her request for credit reports; and
  •     Television and radio advertising for free credit reporting services as of September 1 include disclosures about related trial offers and refer potential consumers to the Web site and toll-free number. has been educating consumers about credit cards since 1998 and has been featured by hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, The New York Times, and The Today Show. Thanks to consumers, has become the most comprehensive free source for comparing credit card offers and has helped over a million people find the best credit cards for their individual needs.

Curtis Arnold is available for interviews on this topic and others relating to the changing trends in the credit card industry.

To interview Curtis, please contact:
Jessica Austin

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