Dear Liz: I was trying to get my free credit report as you suggested in a recent column. I was asked to pay $1, which made me very uneasy. Why do they do this?
Answer: The fact that you were asked to pay for your free credit report — even a nominal amount such as $1 — shows that you went to the wrong site.
That can happen if you typed the correct site, www.annualcreditreport.com, into a search engine, rather than into your browser address bar, and didn’t carefully review the options before you clicked.
These look-alike sites are supposed to disclose that they’re not the real thing, but sometimes those disclosures are easy to miss.
The real site notes that it’s the only site for free credit reports and is authorized by federal law. You don’t need to provide a debit or credit card to get your reports, although you will have to provide identifying information such as your Social Security number.