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Updated on Wednesday, November 12, 2014
At MagnifyMoney, we harp on the importance of credit scores a lot. Primarily because a healthy credit score of 700+ can help keep the rest of your financial life much, much cheaper. A strong credit score means lower interest rates on mortgages and auto-loans, zero percent financing on a new car and eligibility to get the best credit cards on the market. In fact, people in the 700+ credit score range belong to an exclusive club: Club “Prime”.
Those striving to achieve prime status, or just staying in the club, must be diligent about monitoring both their credit scores and reports. Historically, people purchased credit scores directly from FICO or an approximate score could be bought from one of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). These days, sites like Credit Karma, Quizzle and Credit Sesame offer free credit scores – although these scores are not the FICO score but an approximation from the credit bureaus.
Unfortunately, people’s desires to obtain their free scores created an opening for thieves to create credit score scams.
Next time you see an email in your inbox offering a free credit score, take a moment to ensure it isn’t a scam.
How to spot a credit score scam
Hallmark traits of a scam email include a request for:
- Social Security Number
- Bank Account Information
- Credit Card Details
Legitimate businesses offering free credit scores don’t ask for a credit card to be kept on file in order to see your score. They’ll only request a card on file if you’re using the site for credit monitoring.
Phishing emails often mirror emails sent from legitimate sites, so look for small changes like “Quizzles” instead of “Quizzle” or “Credit Carma” instead of “Credit Karma”.
[Read up on other ways to spot and report a phishing email]
But credit score sites ask for my Social Security Number
Credit score sites do request your social security number in order to do a soft pull of your credit score. Protect your personal information by going directly to the site yourself instead of clicking a link via email.
Also look for https:// at the beginning of the URL and a lock to display it’s a secure site.
“Free” Annual Credit Score Scam
No one is entitled to a free annual credit score.
This scam is used to confuse the general population into handing over personal information and possibly credit card or bank account information.
Everyone is entitled to pull a free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, but these reports do not come with scores. There is no government mandate to provide the public with free annual credit scores.
Bear in mind, it is just as important – if not more so – to check your credit report as it is to monitor your credit score. The credit report determines the credit score, so any mistakes on your report will impact a score. Misreported information happens more often than you think, so be diligent about monitoring your credit report.
If you find incorrect information on your credit report(s), you can dispute it directly with the credit bureau:
- TransUnion: http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/credit-disputes.page
- Equifax: https://www.ai.equifax.com/CreditInvestigation/home.action
- Experian: http://www.experian.com/disputes/main.html
Ways to get your credit report and score for free
The only government-endorsed site for a free annual credit report is conveniently named annualcreditreport.com. You can choose to pull all three credit reports at once or space them out throughout the year by pulling one at a time.
In recent years, many credit card lenders, banks and other financial companies have started offering free credit scores, both FICO and other versions.
Some credit card companies provide access to your credit score.
[Disclosure: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.]LendingTree, a loan comparison site, offers free credit scores to users.
View a comprehensive list of credit card lenders and companies offering customers a free credit score by clicking here.
Be diligent and proactive
Protecting your credit score and report is an important aspect of financial health. If you have any questions on how credit scores and reports work, be sure to explore our “Building Credit” section of the blog.
Follow us on Twitter @Magnify_Money for regular updates and recent financial news.