Ben Stein’s employer breaks the law

By Felix Salmon
April 5, 2010
Ben Stein's employer Freescore. A new FTC rule came into effect (read all 22 pages of it here), forcing all such websites to have a huge notice across the top of every web page, saying that AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source for credit reports under federal law, and providing a prominent link to this page.

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April 2 was meant to be a great day in the history of sleazy free-credit-report websites like Ben Stein’s employer Freescore. A new FTC rule came into effect (read all 22 pages of it here), forcing all such websites to have a huge notice across the top of every web page, saying that AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source for credit reports under federal law, and providing a prominent link to this page.

Yet here we are on April 5, and Freescore.com has no such disclaimer. Neither does CreditReport.com. And the biggest site of them all, FreeCreditReport.com, has no such notice either — but instead of simply ignoring the law, like its competitors, it’s trying to find a loophole. Instead of the notice, there’s a box saying this:

Why isn’t my Credit Report free?

Due to federally imposed restrictions it is no longer feasible for us to provide you with a free Experian Credit Report. So for now we’ll be charging you $1 for your Report. But instead of keeping your $1, we’ll donate 100% of the proceeds to Donorschoose.org, an online charity providing funds to classrooms in need.

Underneath that text is the DonorsChoose logo; it’s worth noting that the underlined text, which looks like a hyperlink, isn’t one, and that it’s impossible to click away from FreeCreditReport.com to DonorsChoose.org. I’d also be astonished if DonorsChoose approved of this despicable stunt.

The idea here is that if FreeCreditReport charges $1 and immediately donates that money to charity, then the report isn’t free any more, the name of the site notwithstanding, and therefore the site doesn’t need to carry the FTC-mandated notices. I do hope that the FTC doesn’t allow that kind of nose-thumbing.

But in any case it’s pretty clear that both Freescore.com and CreditReport.com are simply in outright violation of the new laws. I look forward very much to seeing them slapped with some huge fines.

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