Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
New Report Identifies Problems With And Related To The Federally Mandated Free Credit Report Site www.annualcreditreport.com 
San Diego, CA -- A new report issued today by Pam Dixon of the World Privacy Forum (www.worldprivacyforum.org ) 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 bureau.
- 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 marketing programs.
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.
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 change."
- 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 credit report.
- 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.