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Credit Reports & Scores

As Seen on TV: A Freebie<br>That Isn't

Despite the ad's catchy lyrics, this credit report comes with strings.

If you've seen any of the commercials for FreeCreditReport.com, it probably took days to get the jingle out of your head. The catchy TV spots, on air since 2007, are cautionary tales about the repercussions of bad credit. But don't get carried away by this siren song. Run by Experian -- one of the three major credit bureaus -- FreeCreditReport is not entirely, well, free.

You'll get one free copy of your Experian report, but you'll also be enrolled in the bureau's credit-monitoring system to the tune of $15 per month. If you order just the free report, you have only seven days to opt out and escape fees. Charles Harris, the site's vice-president of strategic marketing, says credit monitoring and e-mail alerts are worth the price because they help you manage your credit.

But if all you want is a free credit report, you can request a (truly) free copy once a year, under the Free Credit Reporting Act, from Experian and the other two credit bureaus. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. Get a report every four months and track your credit history over the year.