Pam Dixon, Executive Director
World Privacy Forum
p: (760) 436.2489
Beth Givens, Director
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
p: (619) 298-3396
SAN DIEGO, CA -- The World Privacy Forum and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (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.
The organizations also asked the FTC to investigate the affiliate marketing practices of the credit bureaus in relationship to www.annualcreditreport.com.
The letter to the FTC is based on findings in a new report issued by the World Privacy Forum that shows that consumers may be better off calling or mailing for their federally mandated free credit report instead of going online for it.
For the report, 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.
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.
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 cost. This was accomplished in several different ways at the credit bureaus’ subsections of the official site.
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 had potentially confusing menu navigation bars that did 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 and clear the confusing information from the annualcreditreport.com site and clean up the imposter domains, my recommendation to avoid the site will change.”
For the joint letter to the FTC, see
For the complete Call Don’t Click report, and a consumer tip sheet, see: