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Call don’t click Reports, consumer tips, FTC letter, and resources
World Privacy Forum Call Don’t Click Information
U.S. consumers have the right to obtain a free credit report each year from each of the three national credit bureaus, which are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. To do this, consumers can call, mail, or order the reports online.The World Privacy Forum has published consumer tips with the ordering information and other information about the free annual credit reports. The free annual credit reports should not be confused with the much-advertised free credit reports that cost money. The federally-mandated free credit reports are actually free.
In 2005, when the first free annual credit reports became available, we issued two reports about the AnnualCreditReport.com web site and a variety of issues relating to the site and the ordering process. Both reports, The first version of Call Don’t Click and a complete update, are listed below.
These consumer tips explain how to order the free federally mandated free credit report by phone, mail, and online. Consumers can order one free report from each credit bureau every year. The simplest way of accessing your free credit report is to either call or to mail for the report. Please see the tips below for more information about these ways of accessing your credit report. However, if you do decide to retrieve your free credit report via the Internet at the official www.annualcreditreport.com site, please make sure you go to the correct site. You do not have to pay to receive your free annual credit report. If you are on a site that is asking you to pay for your credit report, double check the spelling of the site, or use the call-in and mail-in methods.
Call, Don’t Click: A Series of Two Reports on AnnualCreditReport.com,
These encompass two separate reports about the congressionally mandated annualcreditreport.com. We wrote the reports after being contacted by consumers who were being misdirected to imposter web sites with domains very similar to annualcreditreport.com. As a result of these two reports, the FTC took numerous enforcement actions, and for many years the scams were reduced.
REPORT I: Call Don’t Click : Why it’s smarter to order federally mandates free credit reports via telephone, not the internet.
February 24, 2005
The World Privacy Forum urges consumers who qualify  to order a federally mandated free annual credit report  to call the toll free number (877-322-8228) instead of ordering their free credit report online. Calling the toll free number exposes consumers to fewer potential hazards than ordering online.  Consumers who try to use the official online site www.annualcreditreport.com may encounter numerous challenges, some of them potentially serious.
REPORT II: Call Don’t Click Update: Still be smart about ordering federally mandated free credit reports.
July 14, 2005
Summary of new findings:
- At least 233 total domains with close or nearly identical spellings of annualcreditreport.com have been purchased. This is an increase from the findings in the first report.
- At least 112 known and confirmed imposter domains were “live,” that is, online and are actively routing consumers away from the official site as of June, 2005. This is an increase of 62 domains from the findings in the first report.
- 21 of the imposter sites posted some form of minimal contact information, such as the ability to fill out a Web form or send an email.
- Many of the imposter domains actively sent consumers to credit bureaus instead of to the official annualcreditreport.com site. This is happening because the pay per click and affiliate marketing issues articulated in the first report are still a substantial problem. When the “live” and “parked” imposter domains send consumers to commercial credit services and some credit bureaus, many of the imposter domains get paid for doing this via “pay per click” online advertising and/or affiliate marketing schemes.
- Four imposter domains forwarded consumers directly to a commercial data broker, Intelius.
PRESS RELEASE: CALL DON’T CLICK UPDATE – STILL BE SMART ABOUT ORDERING FEDERALLY MANDATED FREE CREDIT REPORTS: New Report Identifies Over 100 Imposter Domains Interfering with Federally Mandated Free Credit Report Site, www.AnnualCreditReport.com, Pam Dixon, author.
March 31, 2009
A new report issued today by the World Privacy Forum shows that many consumers may still be better off calling or mailing in for their federally mandated free credit reports instead of accessing the reports online. Although the official Annualcreditreport.com site has improved since its launch in December 2004, there are continuing hazards posed by imposter Web domains, some of which have been aggressively attempting to misdirect and in some cases deceive consumers.
In its first report on this subject published in February 2005, The World Privacy Forum documented that 96 known imposter domains existed, with 50 of those domains active and online. In its new study, “Call Don’t Click Update: Still be smart about ordering Federally mandated free credit reports,” the World Privacy Forum has found that 233 known imposter sites now exist, with 112 of the imposter domains active and online. This marks a 124 percent increase in known, active imposter domains since February.
PRESS RELEASE: World Privacy Forum’s “Call Don’t Click” Report Documents Problems With Imposter Sites with Domains Similar to The Federally Mandated Free Credit Report Site, www.AnnualCreditReport.com, Pam Dixon, author. Beth Givens, author.
February 28, 2005
The World Privacy Forum and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse sent a letter to the FTC today requesting the agency immediately take steps to protect consumers in advance of the March 1 rollout of free credit reports to Midwestern U.S. residents.
The organizations are requesting that the FTC immediately require the credit bureaus to allow legitimate news organizations and consumer groups to link online to the www.annualcreditreport.com site. The organizations also requested that the FTC issue cease and desist letters to domains that deceptively state that they are the official “annual credit report” site when they are not. The domains falling in this category are listed in the World Privacy Forum’s “Call Don’t Click” report, available at www.worldprivacyforum.org.
PRESS RELEASE: New Report Identifies Problems With And Related To The Federally Mandated Free Credit Report Site, www.AnnualCreditReport.com, Pam Dixon, author. Beth Givens, author.
February 25, 2005
A new report issued today by the World Privacy Forum in advance of the March 1 rollout of free credit reports to Midwestern U.S. 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, www.annualcreditreport.com, and they also looked for very close misspellings of the official site to see if any “phishing” or scam sites had been put online.
LETTER: Demonstrated Consumer Risk due to Online Link Blocking by www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Fifty “Live ”Imposter” Domains Luring Consumers Away from the Official Free Credit Report Site, Pam Dixon, author. Beth Givens, author.
February 28, 2005
Letter to FTC from Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and World Privacy Forum requesting the unblocking of Web links to www.annualcreditreport.com. SENT the morning of February 28, 2005.
We request that the Federal Trade Commission take immediate steps to correct the credit bureaus’ implementation of the Web site www.annualcreditreport.com. As you know, Congress mandated that the credit bureaus create a central repository for consumers to access their credit report free of charge on a once-per-year basis.
- Direct link to the official annualcreditreport.com site: www.annualcreditreport.com
- Federal Trade Commission page on federally mandated free credit reports, includes information about rollout, ways of obtaining report, and a live link to the official annualcreditreport.com site. <http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.htm>
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: General information on obtaining federally mandated free credit report. <http://www.privacyrights.org/ar/FreeCRs.htm>
- Federal Trade Commission press release on AnnualCreditReport.com enforcement action (August 16,2005).