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The catch with 'free' credit scores

Posted by Mitch Lipka  January 22, 2013 05:42 PM

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Q. In July, my wife and I wanted to check out our credit scores and saw an ad to get “free” credit scores from a company called ScoreSense. We put our credit card numbers in to pay $1 each and started getting charged between $19.95 and $29.95 a month each. We had no idea that we had signed up for any services from them. We didn't realize what was happening until September and contacted the company in writing as they requested. They ended up giving us refunds for September and December, but not July, August, October and November. Can you help us get our money back?
Katherine Martin, Arlington


A. It is common to see offers like the one you did. ScoreSense, and other similar companies, dangle the idea of a free credit score in order to sell memberships for services that typically include credit monitoring. But it’s not a free score. It’s a trial membership, one that if you don’t cancel will result in recurring charges.

A lot of consumers have ended up unwittingly becoming members. Nearly 1,100 complaints have been filed with the Better Business Bureau against One Technologies LP., the company that runs ScoreSense, and the social credit monitoring site BillGuard.com is also littered with recent complaints about the surprise charges.

While the folks at One Technologies disagree with the idea that they misled you or used your credit card without permission, they have agreed to a full refund “as a customer service courtesy.” Kevin Hain, compliance and escalation specialist at ScoreSense, said members receive credit monitoring as well as monthly credit scores and reports for their fees.

“ScoreSense makes every attempt to market our product in a clear and concise manner and, for the overwhelming majority of our consumers, it is a success,” he said. Less than 1 percent of those who purchase the service, Hain said, “were confused and did not understand what they were agreeing to.”

The key in avoiding these situations is running when you see the words “free trial” unless you are so disciplined that you know when and how to cancel, or you plan to subscribe.

Complaining to the BBB can help. A majority of those who complained about One Technologies told the BBB they consider their cases resolved. Best bet going forward: Only provide your credit card information when you’re actually buying something.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com

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