Free Credit Reports: One Year Later

Free credit reports, new scam and “doctored” online printable coupons: Internet ScamBusters #198

Today we have three interesting Snippets for you:

  • Free credit reports: one year later
  • New scam
  • “Doctored” online printable coupons are making the rounds

Let’s get started…

Free credit reports: one year later

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the law that entitles Americans to get free copies of their credit reports from each of the three main credit bureaus every year.

The New York Times reviewed the success of this law this past weekend. We thought we’d share their conclusions with you.

According to the author, M. P. Dunleavey, getting your free credit report “has now joined the ranks of other dreaded procedures — like mammograms, colonoscopies and regular dental cleanings. You know it’s for your own good, but it sure doesn’t feel that way.” 😉

Last year, we described the program in our article on getting a free credit report.

There is only one website,, where you can order or download your free credit reports.

Unfortunately, studies have found that there are over one hundred fraudulent sites that are misspellings of the real site!

The three main credit bureaus set up sites to offer you free credit reports if you sign up for their “free-to-pay” credit monitoring services.

Free-to-pay monitoring means you sign up for a free trial period and then get charged automatically beyond the trial period for credit monitoring. The FTC sued Experian last year over its free-to-pay credit monitoring services. Experian settled and paid the FTC $950,000.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the free credit reports program is how difficult it is to correct errors. According to one study, 25% of all credit reports contain errors! You need to keep very careful records and be very persistent in order to successfully dispute errors.

Nonetheless, we do believe the free credit reports program is valuable, despite the problems. It’s very important to review your credit reports regularly.

For more info on free credit reports, check out this New York Times article (registration required).

New scam

We’ve had a lot of subscribers ask about the email job offer going around, supposedly from

The vast majority of job scams have been overpayment scams, as we described here:

However, this new job scam seems to be widespread. The most common version has the Subject: “Job Offer: Shipping and Receiving Clerk.”

The email starts with the name of the company and its mission statement. It then goes on to describe the position, offers excellent benefits, and states reasonable requirements.

The most “interesting” part is the starting salary: $70-80 per sent package!

You can see a copy of the scam email here:

Although the From address of the version on this website is different than the ones we’ve seen, they are all from .de extensions. (Naturally, scammers can and will use any domain extensions, so don’t assume you are safe just because a domain extension is reasonable.)

We also noticed that the domain name was registered only a couple of days before the emails were sent, which is another red flag.

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

“Doctored” online printable coupons are making the rounds

Imagine receiving an email with an online coupon for $3 off a $3 item that you usually buy. Sounds great — but is it real?

Often, it’s not.

Here’s how it works: scammers are taking legitimate coupons and doctoring them into fraudulent ones. For example, the $3 coupon we just mentioned may well have really been a “30 cents off” coupon.

Unfortunately, you look like the con artist when you try to use it at the grocery store — not the cyber-scammer who created the doctored coupon.

So how do you avoid embarrassing yourself at the checkout and unknowingly committing coupon fraud?

Don’t trust any online coupon that doesn’t come directly from a manufacturer or from a manufacturer’s authorized representative. Avoid coupons that are sent to you via email unless you’ve specifically requested that kind of mailing.

By being skeptical, as well as making sure that all of your printable coupons come directly from a manufacturer or a reputable source, you can save yourself a lot of embarrassment and grief.

Time to wrap up for today — have a great week!