Q&A: Purchasing the right credit report

Dear Liz: I got my credit reports from http://www.annualcreditreport.com as you recommended in a recent column, but had to go through some hoops to get my actual credit score, which is the main thing I wanted. One of the bureaus required me to subscribe to its newsletter, which cost $29.95 a month after a seven-day free trial. I guess they hope people won’t cancel within seven days, but I did, without any trouble.

Answer: Confusion about the difference between credit reports and credit scores often leads people to sign up for unnecessary, costly products. (You were signing up for credit monitoring, by the way, not a newsletter.) You can get free credit scores from a variety of sites, including Credit.com, Credit Karma and Quizzle, without having to buy a product. The scores you get from these sites aren’t the scores that lenders typically use, but neither is the score the credit bureau provided you. If you want to see scores lenders usually use, you’ll need to buy those for $20 apiece from MyFico.com.


  1. We just got our credit reports from annualcreditreport.com and all three bureaus have information for my 31 year old son (same first name, even though he has a middle initial and a different SSN). Fortunately, he is responsible with his credit, but both of us would like to get our information separated again. Without long term monthly fees in every bureau, is there a way to get them to straighten out their records of our finances or is it not worth the bother. We are senior citizens and don’t anticipate needing any financing for the foreseeable future, but my son may want to do something in the next few years.

    • Liz Weston says

      You each need to dispute the erroneous information with the bureaus. The credit reports should have information on how to do this either via mail or online. Include a note explaining that you’re father and son. If the problem persists, please get back to me.

  2. Been using Credit Karma for a long time, not sure if the scores are the same as the big 3 bureaus but I’m sure its close enough for anything I’ve needed to know about.

  3. MyFico.com starts out trying to get you to subscribe to a credit monitoring for $14.95 per month. You have to dig deeper to find the one time credit report for $19.95.

  4. Brenda Keiner says

    I legally left a business 13 years ago…about l/1/2 years ago I get a call about a debt that the remaining partner had for the business. I had my lawyer contact the debt collecting agency and tell them in writing when I left the business (legally) and sent pertinent pages of the legal selling of stock etc. to this agency. She also stated that the statute of limitations had passed. Never heard from them again. Then this year decided to get my credit score and it had dropped almost a 100 points because this is listed (all A’ s on report and this one B. No sense calling them as you go around in circles. Then I started receiving notices from another debt collection agency that she had started paying some every month. Again I don’t
    care, but keep all the paper work. Now a lawyers office in Phoenix (other notices in the past received from Kansas and Denver )stating that they would take money from an account (they have none of my accounts)so……this time I called this law office and after a couple of transfers got someone who told me that it was sent to me my mistake and ignore and they saw all the info on the account and would quit harassing me. How did all of this still affect my credit score when they got the correspondence and back up legal work and still affected my score?

    • Liz Weston says

      Unfortunately this is not unusual, and if you want to keep debts that aren’t yours off your credit reports, you often have to become a warrior about it. The debts are certainly too old to be reported legally, so each time they crop up you should dispute them with the credit bureaus as not yours and in any case outside the seven year reporting period. Good luck.