Company to pay $22 million for offering "free" credit scores that turned out to be not so free

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We’ve brought law enforcement actions – dozens of ‘em. We’ve held workshops, issued reports, and sent warning letters. If it takes sky writing, tap dancing, and a float in a Thanksgiving Day parade, we’ll do that, too. But here’s what’s not going to happen. The FTC is not giving up until businesses get the message that: 1) Free means free; and 2) Key terms and conditions have to be clearly and conspicuously disclosed. A $22 million settlement announced by the FTC and the AGs of Illinois and Ohio with a national credit monitoring service advertising so-called “free” credit scores emphasizes that point. Another note for practitioners: It's the FTC's third case alleging violations of ROSCA.

One Technologies and related outfits marketed their credit monitoring programs, MyCreditHealth and ScoreSense, through at least 50 sites, including FreeScore360.com, FreeScoreOnline.com and ScoreSense.com. Their strategy was simple. Buy advertising on search engines so their ads show up near the top when people look for phrases like “free credit report" and then follow up with a persuasive pitch: “View your latest Credit Scores from All 3 Bureaus in 60 seconds for $0!”

According to the lawsuit, the defendants failed to clearly tell consumers that if they availed themselves of those “free” services and didn’t cancel within seven days, the defendants would ding their credit cards for $29.95 a month over and over and over again. The complaint includes screen shots of the defendants’ sites, but before looking at them, take out your reading glasses because they’ll come in handy in trying to locate where the defendants chose to tell people about that $29.95 monthly fee.

One line of fine print added in late 2012 said “Free 7-Day trial when you order your 3 Free Credit Scores. Membership is then just $29.95 per month until you call to cancel.” The first problem: The type was tiny – a fraction of the size of the defendants’ multiple use of the word “free.” The second problem: Why should consumers even have to be on the look-out for the cost, given that the defendants so prominently advertised it as “free”?

A second purported disclosure appeared as an obscure hyperlink on the page where people typed in their Social Security number and birthdate.  Sandwiched between the logos of various security firms and a large color button that said CONTINUE was this less-than-crystal-clear statement:

By clicking on the ‘Continue’ button, you agree to the Offer Details, to the Terms and Conditions, acknowledge receipt of our Privacy Policy and agree to its terms . . .

The “Offer Details” link triggered a small pop-up that said, among other things, “At the end of the 7-day trial period, your credit/debit card will be charged $29.95 on a monthly basis until you call to cancel.”

Another place the defendants put the information was on a side panel of the Payment Form in white letters on a grey background – a color combination one of the defendants’ own employees described as “known to cause seizures in lab rats.”

According to the complaint, once people spotted the unauthorized charges on their accounts, the defendants didn’t make it easy to stop the billing.  And even when people asked for their money back because they hadn’t approved of the charges, the defendants denied refunds to many of them.

The lawsuit alleges violations of the FTC Act, as well as the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, and related state rules. In addition, the complaint is the third FTC action to charge violations of ROSCA, the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act. The FTC says the defendants failed to disclose material terms, didn’t get consumers’ express informed consent for the negative option feature, and didn’t provide a simple cancellation method – all violations of ROSCA.

In addition to the $22 million judgment, the stipulated order puts a host of provisions in place to protect consumers in the future. For example, the companies will have to clearly disclose the terms before a consumer consents to pay via a negative option. What's more, the defendants have to provide a mechanism for people to stop recurring charges that is at least as simple as the mechanism consumers used to initiate the service.

 

Comments

That's great! Some relief, at last!
Go get them, I was burned by Free Credit Report dot Com, and got locked into Experien, I wish they would go after dating sites.
get them all ! those bad guys! keep up the good work thanks
It was about time to put a stop to this fraudulent way of scamming consumers, the most vulnerable people of Americans are the ones that need the most protection, those unscrupulous white collar criminals are always targeting unsuspected citizens in great need. Please continue your best efforts to clean up and prosecute the wrong doers.
I think the only effective way to stop the thieves is to fine them severely. Everyone is a target of these predators. Good job!
It's time to clean up the internet and make it safe for consumers.

Buggers too money out of my bank account for 14 months, yes I know I should keep better track. But, I found out about this, then the offer a one-half price (same poduct)and when I said "NO", the went right on for an additional 6 months withdrawing money. The stole at least 400.00 bucks right out of my bank account. Bank robbers, even white collar, should go to jail!

How does one apply for a refund?

After I signed up for a free credit score, $29.95 was charged monthly by Score Sense to my Discover card for 16 months,totaling $561.44. I did not notice anything that indicated there would be a monthly charge, and my only excuse for not checking my statements all that time for any unauthorized charges is that I'm a busy person and a senior citizen who is at times forgetful. I understand that there is/was a class action lawsuit against Score Sense for recovery of the funds they have bilked people out of. Is it too late to get in on the lawsuit, or is there any way to recover that money? Thank you for any information you can provide.

That is Great !!! I tried to get them to stop charging me and it was basically nothing I could do. I tried to speak to managers and they were very rude. I tried every thing but the continued to charge me for over A Year. I had to shut my bank account down and change over my bill paying process. THANKYOU !!!!

Yes they got me for about 300 me and mty husband thank god they got them hopefully Ill be able to get my money back

THEY HAVE BEEN TAKING MONEY OUT OF MY MOM'S ACCOUNT SINCE FEBRUARY 2015. THEY REFUNDED THE INITIAL CHARGE AND THEN STARTED CHARGING HER AGAIN $12.95? EACH MONTH. THEY MADE ME THINK IT WAS CANCELLED WHEN THEY SAID THE REFUND WAS "APPROVED" , WHICH IS EXTREMELY SHIFTY.

I think these processors deserve a BIG round of applause for their work for us who were robbed of our hard earned money.Thank you so very much

Great job. These frauds dinged me for multiple months before I noticed and canceled.

yes, good. its about time. they sock it to ya and you don't even see it coming. I say no and they say go and they get you for whatever they can. so many of them out there . I catch them sometimes but not all the time and sometimes wnen it cost me a bundle.

Besides being swindled this criminal act cost me overdraft fees not knowing that I was having money automatically taken from my account! Thank you FTC for standing up for us.

I discovered that ScoreSense was taking no "stealing" money from my bank account when my checking account became over drawn. I contacted them and my bank immediately and discovered these criminals have been taking money from me for FOUR years! I have made numerous calls and sent emails. I decided to google lawsuits against ScoreSense and found this web page. I am a single mother attending college struggling every month just to keep food in my home and my utilities on! I feel so violated! If there is anyone that can offer me advice on how to proceed it would be greatly appreciated.

That company is still practicing the same scam

I had the chance to work for their call center and noticed dishonest approaches. They told us to lie about the service so that the consumer would feel like getting something worth the price but we had no major information or internet access to search about just sheets of papers with a ridiculous script and some other knowledge base with documents outdated. But on consistent basis the mayor concern on calls were about recurring unathorized charges on accounts. The refund process is but a mere tactic to avoid any refund and the goals they focus is on making money at all means retaining those affected by offering price reductions and benefits. Plus they use a retribution system based on what they call it "Save Rate" paying about a dollar for every caller retained. So this guys really work in order to keep you in. This is the most violent and unprofessionally disguised as honest practice of taking money from people I have seen so far for a service that seems not worth the amount charged. Definitively a well covered Modus Operandi. They hook you now with a $1 trial for 7 days and $39.95 most of the times not reimbursable if you pass the trial time frame. A complete SCAM. It is like going to a madhouse getting bullets for who knows why and getting your house burn to ashes. Beware. This are abusive practices.

I had a problem with my debt card accounts and I asked for monthly statements and opened an online account so I could keep track of any transactions that was on my account as I was going through prior months I noticed a charge of 29.95 to scoresense for a total of nine months so I called them and asked them if I had ever activated my so called account they said no but bottom line was they did not care I wrote a letter no responses I am so glad they got caught it is very upsetting and feeling violated and as if what ever happened to me just did not matter so thank you

We filed a claim....Have they already been paid out?

When are they supposed to pay? We sent in our refund claim form in October, 2015 before the December 28, 2015 deadline.

Mitzi141 and Jojo, I checked with the people administering the refunds. The process of reviewing refund claims is still underway. Every claim form has to be looked at individually, which is a time-consuming process. But I'm sure you can understand why it's important to make sure the money goes back to the right consumers. Thank you very much for your patience.

They said it would be June,July or September before they get through all the forms and start paying us some of the money that was stold from us. And they couldn't say how much due to te number of people affected

What do I do if ScoreSense is still doing this

I just received a refund! Thank you Illinois & Ohio! Thank God someone is taking care of us! Lord knows these big banks & other companies can [phrase deleted] anytime they want! Thank you so much!

Lexington Law Firm just recently did this to me in 2016! Because of the $119 they STOLE from my US Bank account (on top of the $15.99 'free credit report'), I had to request a new debit card to ensure they didn't take even more money. Then US Bank pre-funded the money that they stole back to me while we waited as the transaction was being disbuted. Well, Lexington Law did refund my account I guess at some point- but I was unaware that they paid me and not my bank- but any which way- Last time I checked my account I had $60 in it, then a couple months down the road I try to use my debit card and it said denied. I looked online and I am 300 in debt now to US Bank for overdraft fees from when the bank took their provisional payment back. So despite 'opting OUT' of overdraft fees (I did not want US Bank to allow charges to my account for anything I did not have the funds to cover) I now owe US Bank $288 and they closed my account.
My account after they took their provisional credit was -59, then they took another $25 a week for 8 weeks and then charged me a $30 account closure.
I wish someone would do something about Lexington's Law firm.

To make matters even worse: The whole reason I was talking to Lexington Law Firm:
I was contacted about a car loan I requested and was told that if I signed up to LLF's "7 day free trial" then I was approved for the loan I requested. Then "the loan officer" called Lexington Law and after connecting us on the phone said they would be contacted by LLF by the next business day, and then they would call me and process the loan. I never heard back from those people again. Seemed kinda funny to me. The only people who benefitted from that 'Loan servicer' was Lexington Law Firm.

Take my advice you guys, they are DIRTY!

I also am a part of scoresence and have tried to cancel with them several times once I found out I was being charged $29.95 over and over. Get them...

I called to cancel as soon as I logged in. It didn't have what I was looking for. A week later my acct was still active so I wrote them. Thinking it was going to be taken care of I forgot a out ut only to see months later these 39.99 charges! After several more calls I finally talk to a rep that said..oh I see here where you had called in an asked to cancel. She put in for refunds but the very next day I get an email saying all of the refunds were denied AND another 39.99 posted to my card!!! So frustrating!!

OMG!! i can not believe this! i fell for there scam! now money out my accounts are missing! and now i can not get ahold of anybody and they have my account information! what do i do?

They are still at it today. Family member started receiving a recurring charge from Scoresense on CC - and they never even went to a credit check site. They have no idea how their info was stolen. Missouri resident. Thankfully, the CC company reversed the charge(s) and issued a refund - then closed the CC ## for a new one.

ScoreSense is running the same scam. They give you your credit scores but plan to charge you a recurring fee if you don't cancel within the 7 day free trial.

5/20/2019 this Company Scoresense is a scam! They are still charging people a monthly fee of $39.95. I know, because this has happened to me. They have been charging this to my credit card since January 2017. Spoke to their customer service and they stated they would stop the charges. To get a refund, they said I had to contact customer care.scoresense.com. There is no such address. I contacted the Better Business Bureau in Kentucky, which my brother is the president of, and they stated they have received over 400 complaints on this company doing this. They also go under a number of different company names. Called my bank and cancelled my credit card. Hopefully they will refund my money because I will never see it from Scoresense! Beware! Janet W.

They still are scamming people

I responded to a advertisement on free credit score consultation and they charged me $1 to get my creditscore. What they did not show clearly, is that you actually sign up for a subscription of $30 a month. So this scam continues to date.

You can report that to the FTC at www.FTC.gov/Complaint. The information you give goes into a secure database that the FTC and other law enforcement agencies use for investigations.

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