When is a free credit report not free?  A credit report is not really free, or at least you could easily be charged for it, if you use one of the commercially advertised websites.  The television commercial advertising this service is really a for profit venture trying to sell you a service for a fee.  You must first give them your credit card information (if you have an active credit card) and to avoid a charge you must cancel the service within a specified amount of time.

To paraphrase my friend Jay Fleischman who writes in the Consumer Help Central Blog in New York. The three primary national consumer credit reporting companies are required by a federal law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at least once every 12 months if you ask for it.

All you need to do to order your free annual credit report is go to www.annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228 , or fill out an Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to the official address: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

This report is really free.  It is not an independent commercial venture, only the legal response by the consumer reporting bureaus to the mandated consumer service.