At last count, there were more than two hundred registered domain names with names that were similar to the official annualcreditreport.com or which contained the phrase “annual credit report.” Since it is quite easy to misspell a domain name, particularly a long one, many consumers have found themselves at sites other than the one they intended to visit. Most of these other Websites exist for the purpose of selling a credit report, rather than providing them for free, but others are designed to fool the consumer into providing personal information that the site owners may be able to exploit for personal gain. Other sites with similar names merely offer advertising or redirect visitors to porn sites.
What’s to be done? Not much, it would appear. Several of the sites that were created to fool consumers into providing personal information have been taken offline, but others will undoubtedly follow. Any sites that are established outside of the United States are immune to U.S. law, so it may be difficult for authorities to take any action. Consumers who are not overly familiar with the workings of the Internet would be better off contacting the credit bureaus directly by mail or phone. Anyone who uses the Internet to obtain a copy of their credit report should make sure that they are typing the name of the Website accurately. Failure to do so may lead to involuntarily providing vital personal information to people who shouldn’t have it.