You've seen the commercials featuring the "Slacker Band" strumming out catchy jingles like "F-R-E-E, that spells free, credit report dot com, baby." This clever little campaign is for a company called CIC Triple Advantage, a third party vendor contracted by Experian as a front door revenue partner that makes hundreds of millions of dollars from consumers who are hoping to get a handle on their credit and improve it or simply monitor their credit and scores.
If you've done a Google search or a Rip Off Report search on FreeCreditReport.com or CIC Triple advantage, you'll find hundreds of complaints on this company. Most of the complaints and reports are from people who signed up for a "free credit report, only to see their bank accounts or credit cards tapped for $14.95 every month by CIC Triple Advantage. Several complainants also gripe about CIC Triple Advantage not actually canceling the accounts of those who call in and request it. One suggestion, send the cancellation request in writing to the company direct via certified mail; this gives you a documented paper trail that shows when you requested the cancellation.
Those consumers who get snagged by the CIC free credit report promotion are victims of their own failings. They simply did not read the company's home page where it spells out in plain, easy-to-read English that consumers may obtain their "free" credit report only by enrolling in the Triple Advantage Credit Monitoring Service, which costs $14.95 a month after the 7-day free trial expires.
The TV commercials also state in both audio and with on-screen disclaimers that you must enroll in the Triple Advantage program. So, people that do not take the time to read the statement on the homepage only fuel this company's success in ripping off the general (and often uninformed) public.
My scenario is a bit different in that I have used the service and paid monthly for close to two years, all the while watching what I thought was my FICO score through the Triple Advantage Program. This part of CIC's deception is not as noticeable because it is cleverly disguised as "Know Your Score" or credit score monitoring.
FICO is a credit scoring model that was created in 1956 by the Fair Isaac Corporation and it's the model that 90% of all lenders use to determine consumer credit risk. Most lenders look at your FICO Score first and foremost to determine your credit worthiness and if you qualify for a car loan, mortgage or credit card.
FreeCreditReport.com/CIC Triple Advantage uses "Plus Score", which is where the deception comes into play. Now some of you may tell me that I need to read as well, and you are probably right...but my mistake was only in ASSUMING that I was seeing my FICO Score, not some B.S. scoring model made up by CIC Triple Advantage.
I pulled my 3-in-1 report through CIC and it showed me a 720 score for Experian and 706 for both Equifax and Transunion. Based on those numbers, I called my bank and applied for a line of credit that required a 700 score or better to qualify. The bank pulled my credit (-2 point hit for credit inquiry) and my Experian FICO SCORE was only a 680...a 40-point difference! Also, my Experian 3-in-1 report showed 706 on Exquifax and Transunion when my FICO score was actually 674 on both. BIG difference!
So basically, CIC pulled my other two bureau reports from Equifax and Transunion, then applied their "Plus Score" credit scoring model to those two FICO scores and converted the FICO scores to something that is completely useless to me or lenders.
I wasted my time and effort PLUS take a 2-point hit for the credit pull by my bank!
Nowhere on CIC's homepage does it state "Get your Plus Score" or "Know your Plus Score"...it simply says "score". Granted, it also does not say FICO Score either, but this sort of smoke screen is considered deceptive advertising. A group of decision makers at CIC decided NOT to put the words "Know your PLUS SCORE" on their homepage like their disclaimer of enrolling in the Triple Advantage Program to get a free credit report. They also decided to be deceptive and NOT inform site visitors that it was not a FICO score they were obtaining by purchasing their report from CIC.
In contrast, Equifax does not contract their credit monitoring out to a third party, they do it themselves and actually provide a true FICO score with your report. You can also order a tri-merge credit report that shows your FICO scores from the other two bureaus, even Experian. Transunion's product is also through a 3rd party vendor. Its called TruCredit and it's a true waste of money. Of the three credit reporting bureaus, Equifax is the only online service I would recommend and I've used all three services.
ALERT: A new CIC-type player/scammer that has recently popped up using Transunion credit reporting is "FreeTripleScore.com". Just like CIC, they advertise on TV showing people trying to pronounce the website name three times fast. Very cheap commercial production, heavy television rotation and the same exact scam - they have you sign up for their "Privacy Matters 1-2-3" monitoring service and they promise to give you all three reports along with all three of your "credit scores" - be forewarned however, they do not give you FICO scores. And in the credit game (or scam actually), FICO is the only score that matters.
If you want to do something about these pond scum companies that feed off of us consumers that are just trying to keep our heads above water, then file a report with the Federal Trade Commission and the US Attorney General's Office. File it as a deceptive trade practice violation and use this report to check CIC out for yourself, you'll see exactly what I am talking about. Maybe enough noise will finally get some action against.
After all, they've been ripping people successfully off since 2001. Time to end it.