Credit Karma Scam or Legit Free Credit Scores?

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credit-karma-scam The old maxim, “If it is too good to be true, it probably is,” holds up especially well in the world of personal finance. The concept of getting free credit scores has been mined by con-artists and scammers repeatedly. Unfortunately, most of these scams are perpetrated by well known companies and by the credit reporting bureaus themselves.

The free credit score scam usually goes like this. A company offers to give you a “free” credit score. To get your free score you have to sign up. If you don’t read every word on the screen or printed on the page very carefully (especially the ones in fine print), you might think that you are just signing up to get a free credit score. Gotcha!

What you are actually signing up for is a “free” trial membership in the company’s credit monitoring service. The trial is free for 30 days, or 90 days, but at the end of the free trial, you automatically subscribe to the fully paid subscription. This is why you had to enter a credit card number when you signed up. If they actually had to collect money from you at the end of your free trial, everyone would say, “No thanks.” Instead, they use that credit card to automatically bill you. Most of the time, they bill you for the whole year, in advance, all at once. That way, by the time you notice it on your credit card bill, it is too late for you to back out and get a full refund and since there is no way you want to legitimately subscribe to the service, they get you for 12 months instead of one month.

Worst of all, is that they will automatically renew your subscription when it expires, so 12 months later when you’ve forgotten all about how they screwed you over in the first place, they can do it all over again. It stinks of fraud, but all of the “disclosures” are made (again in tiny print, or buried in a six-page document), so technically it passes legal muster.

Transunion, Equifax, and Experian all pull this marketing scam on their own websites, right next to the part where they try to trick you into getting your “free” credit report that isn’t really free either.

Don’t forget you can get a real free credit report every 12 months (that’s once a year) by law. Don’t ever pay or subscribe to something to get your legitimate free credit report.

Tip: If you have to enter a credit card number, you are getting scammed. Real free credit reports DO NOT require you to enter a credit card number at all.

Free Credit Report from CreditKarma Scam Too?

Knowing all of this about how credit scores work and how credit repair scams an the like go down, I ignored the offer of “free” credit scores from Credit Karma. Scam, scam, scam, I thought.

But, then, I read a write-up about Credit Karma by a financial journalist that I happen to trust and respect. (It is a very small club.) That got me wondering about how it could be true that Credit Karma gives you your credit score for free.

With a legitimate financial writer’s endorsement in mind, I decided to try out Credit Karma. However, I did it very warily.

First, I signed up for a new email address to use so that I would know if Credit Karma sold my email address or spammed it with credit card offers.

Next, I obtained a one-time use online credit card number from one of my credit cards and set the amount to $1 (the lowest allowed) and the expiration to the next month (the shortest allowed.)

Then, I went to Credit Karma’s website at www.creditkarma.com

(There is no link, because I want readers to know that I do not get any sort of kickback, payment, or referral bonus for this review of Credit Karma.)

Continue here to see my full Credit Karma review.

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71 Comments on Credit Karma Scam or Legit Free Credit Scores?

  1. Alex C says:

    well,

    what happened??

  2. Cville Gal says:

    Is it a scam or not?

  3. Kristin says:

    It is NOT a scam. I have been using it for over a year. I check my credit score several times a month. I have never been charged a thing!

  4. avatar42 says:

    As I just found out the hard way DIRECTLY from Experian, the credit score given to consumers is NOT the same as what they give lenders. I called them after being told by several lenders that my credit score was 50-75 points lower then what Experian’s own credit score tracking service reported to me. The support person told me the scores are based on different data and this is the case for ALL of these consumer services. To me this makes them ALL scams.

  5. Manu says:

    According to the consumner advocate Clark Howard, both creditkarma and quizzle will give you a credit score for free (once a year). It won’t cost you money but there is, of course, a gotcha. By doing it, you provide those companies access to your credit report, which they then sell to companies who will potentially send you offers, such as credit cards, car loans, etc. You basically open your file to those financial marketing companies. That may be OK with you, if you find it worth getting a score. Are those companies upfront about their intentions? You decide.

    • Both companies give you your credit score more than once per year. I’ve been getting mine, approximately monthly.

      All three credit bureaus sell mailing lists based upon information in your credit report every single day.

      The article from October 2010 I found on Clark Howard’s website suggests no such thing, other than that the three sites he mentions may try to “up-sell” you additional services. He also points out that these are not “true” FICO scores.

      I have seen no increase in either junk mail or email since signing up with CreditKarma. I have no crystal ball or telepathy powers, but I have seen no ill effects as of yet.

  6. Iva says:

    I have been using it for a few months now and I was never charged. I seems that it only updates every month but that is not bad for a free score.

  7. Houston says:

    Let me just break it down for everyone really quick.

    Credit Karma is a great free service to track the changes in your credit score. I recommend it, it’s not a scam in the traditional sense.

    However, since Credit Karma is NOT providing you with your FICO score (the one that 80% of all lender use) it should only be used as a guide.

    Your REAL Credit Score (the FICO score) could be off by as much as 50+ points in either direction.

    Fortunately for many, Credit Karma scores are often LOWER than your real FICO scores, but not always.

    In our industry we call these FAKO scores and ALL of the “Free” credit scores fall into this category. This includes scores you purchase directly from Trans Union and Experian, plus FreeCreditReport.com, etc.

    Helpful perhaps if you are tracking over time, but not always accurate and should NOT be relied on when making critical credit decisions.

    Like it or not, thems the facts. Get The Facts About Credit

    • Thanks for you comment. Even the score you can buy directly from Fair Issac is only ONE of several FICO scores that the company offers. The only credit score that “matters” is the one that gets pulled by the lender at a specific moment in time. Everything else is nothing more than an appraisal or estimate.

  8. Rachel says:

    I use it, gives me some good ideas. But that is right about the FICO score. My FICO score was 35 points higher which put me in EXCELLENT credit. So just use it as a guide.

  9. MALINA says:

    This is not a scam. This is a soft credit pull and yes will be different when you actually apply for credit. Why?? Because when you apply for credit you are graded and the score is always different. Soft pulls are typically higher but can be lower. You are never charged a fee the catch is that you will be asked to apply for credit cards etc. on their site.I just delete the emails and love that it is totally free with cc card input needed.

  10. Not saying says:

    I signed up for Credit Karma on Saturday this week. Monday was the first time in 2 years a collection agency had my home number and was chain calling…. The purpose is to see your home information to collection agencies…. I’m in debt because I went to college, there were no jobs once I got out in my field… Now someone wants money from me? What a joke!

    • That MIGHT be possible, although that would be a very fast update for a creditor to receive, program, and dial on.

      Keep in mind that any information on your credit report is available to your creditors. So long as that info is out of date, then I guess no one has your number, but if you update it for any reason (applying for new credit, updated with a bank, signing up with Credit Karma, etc…) then creditors will have access to it. If you are trying to not update your info on your credit report, then be sure to enter the same out of date info on Credit Karma that is already on your credit report.

      Thanks for the heads up.

  11. Gail says:

    Note that there are 2 sites that use credit karma in their addresses, creditkarma and credit karma. creditkarma is the one that is free and I feel, very useful. Not sure about the other one. But creditkarma has good advice and will let you see how to raise your score, which varies according to which of the big 3 companies a report is pulled from. Recently I got a personal loan and my bank sent me my fico score (from experian)which was different (by many points)than another company, (transunion)so there you go.

  12. Mitzie Boo says:

    I have meet with different credit counselors from my bank and they have recommended creditkarma. One thing for sure is the Experian score is the score most companies/financial institution uses when they are assessing your score. I dont think creditkarma has anything to do with the score being off, since if you pull all three scores you will still see a difference between Transunion, Equifax, and Experian.

  13. Donald Olsen says:

    I loged into CreditKarma. I decided not to tell them my annual income but filled in all the rest. They didn’t ask for any information about my credit cards. When I got in…. My major credit card I own was not listed and they indicated I had no cards. I couldn’t find a way to get a “credit report”. None of the above big three sources of credit scores were mentioned. My credit report was only 680 “fair” my payment history was “F” less than 96% on time when it is actually 100% on time. What do you think about all this? I am suspicious. Please tell me what is going on here.

    • I don’t work for Credit Karma, so I can’t really say. I know that they use the information on your TransUnion credit report. So, unless the information shows up on that, they won’t know about it. You might want to check your credit report and see what it says. Use the real free credit report website and not one of the sign up for a free credit report websites. Otherwise, I have no idea why there would be such a mismatch. I’ve never heard of that before.

  14. mark says:

    I’m going to try it out, and let y’all know my experience.

  15. Stella says:

    I’ve been using it for the past few years and it is a good indicator of your credit health when you are in-between your big three official report pulls. No major problems so far.

  16. Zak says:

    I have been using credikarma for more than a year. They seem to have most of the account info correct. However, the scores are way off. Creditkarma says my score is above 750, but mortgage company just pulled my score the next day and all 3 scores are between 670-680. That’s way off.

  17. [...] Update (January 2012): You should see about this CreditKarma.com free credit monitoring review along with your free credit score. See my CreditKarma.com review for a complete look of Credit Karma. Also check this if you are worried about the whole thing being just a Credit Karma scam. [...]

  18. [...] online. At first, many people, including me, were worried that the whole thing was just a big Credit Karma scam. However, after doing some research into whether Credit Karma is legit and even doing an in-depth [...]

  19. [...] before you file. To avoid having to pay, get a free credit score from CreditKarma.com. (See my Credit Karma scam article and my CreditKarma.com review article for more details.) You may, however, want to wait to [...]

  20. Art says:

    Been using CK for almost a year. Have no problems. Recommended it to friends who love it to.

  21. [...] credit monitoring service scam. A suspicion that carried over when I though it was just a Credit Karma scam online, too. Instead, I got [...]

  22. [...] then those $1 credit reports actually cost you at least $30.95.When I looked into whether or not Credit Karma was a scam, I was on lookout for whether or not they tried to get me to enter a credit card number or bank [...]

  23. [...] are some services that do follow through on the free offer. For example, I checked into whether Credit Karma was a scam and determined it wasn’t. My full Credit Karma review determined that the site offers a [...]

  24. Donna says:

    It says no social security number is required. That’s a lie, It asks for it on the second page. What a bunch of liars. Stay clear of it.

  25. Donna says:

    Give no one your social. That is used for jobs nothing else.It states on the card it self not to be used for ID.

    • All true in theory. Unfortunately, not true in the real world. It’s required for taxes, any financial account, any background check, rental agreement, many medical facilities, insurance (health, life and auto) and, yes, for any credit report or credit score.

      It was supposed to be for employers only, but Congress never got around to making it illegal to use for anything else, and now too many people use it for too many things.

  26. E says:

    CreditKarma is a scam too. They use the same technique that this author has described. They use Scoresense. Before you know it, they will charge $29.95/month.

  27. [...] scores and free credit monitoring to its customers. At first, a lot of people were worried that Credit Karma might be a scam. But, after an in-depth Credit Karma review, it seems that the company is legit. However, it is [...]

  28. [...] score for free. We’ve already looked at some of these services. First, we checked to see if Credit Karma is a scam. Then, we looked at whether Quizzle is a scam. Credit Sesame looks like these other online service [...]

  29. [...] your credit score, you may want to check into one of the free online credit score services such as Credit Karma, Quizzle or Credit Sesame.Phone Numbers for Credit BureausThese phone numbers may change in the [...]

  30. As the old saying goes there is no free lunch someone has to pay that someone is the consumer.
    Well when I signed on with score sense i did the trial called into cancel got the cancel req # from the CSR he said would be no charge to my account. By the way I went through credit karma score sense was the sight i was directed to. Then when I check my bank acct the next morning there was a charge I called in they said they saw no record of me canceling the acct so I am calling the bank and putting a fraud claim in and will not use these credit services again they are inaccurate each one has a game one says this score another one another. what goes around comes around. credit karma is bad karma they need to stop false advertising I think its a way for them to nget your personal imfo and do ID theft.

    • Mark says:

      Your on drugs dude! I have had Credit Karma for over 2 years, and not once have I had to enter any credit card or bank account info. Please people, don’t get on here and tell an out an out lie like that. As you can read, to many of us have never paid a dime.

      • There may be some confusion from people using a different, maybe lookalike site. I’m still looking into it.

      • Edith Ann says:

        So far I have been very satisfied with Credit Karma. they never asked me for anymore personal information than any of these loan companies when applying for a loan and to the person who complained about being charged to their credit card must be something else they never asked me for any kind of banking or credit card info. so far I have been very satisfied and will be until if anything different comes up but you take chances everyday on anything and thats the way you learn what is good and what is bad. But I really feel good about Credit Karma and unless I hear anything different I don’t believe all these horror stories.

  31. kim says:

    I joined on credit karma and I didnt put a card number down so they will not automatically bill you.There is no fee for their service

    • Diana says:

      Credit Karma is not a scam. U can trully go there and get your score and information about your credit without even putting a credit card number in!

  32. Adrian Gutierrez says:

    I’ve been using Credit Karma for sometime now and it has not costed me one penny. Yes they do offer other services that do require payment but only if you wish to purchase them and they don’t push it. I was not asked for credit card information or payment of any kind when I registered. I’m sure other web sites will scam you but so far Credit Karma is not one of those. I will however, cancel if I ever am asked for a payment. So far not yet.

  33. Richard LeRoy says:

    They are total crap. They claim they receive all their information from Trans Union. I asked Trans Union and they said they don’t get their info from them. Bunch of liars.

    • I don’t know who you spoke with at TransUnion (one word, BTW) but TransUnion offers credit reports to anyone willing to pay for them, including Credit Karma. In addition, Credit Karma states prominently on its website and in several interviews with major news publications that they get their information from TransUnion. I would doubt that such a large financial institution, with an full-fledged PR division, would hesitate to dispute such information if it were not true.

  34. Laura says:

    As soon as I accessed Credit Karma, I began getting lots of spam email, for example from Western Union re Payment Notification; from International Police re Your Brother; from Canada Lottery re Attn:Winner; and oh yes from Mr Popoff re Viagara Store. I am getting dozens of these a week. Before I accessed Credit Karma I rarely saw this type of email. I have had the same email address for 18 years. Credit Karma seems to be in the business of gathering information to be sold to spammers, and not just any spammers but the lowest form of life. Has anybody else had the same experience with increased spam?

  35. Monique says:

    I LOVE Credit Karma. First of all It’s FREE and Just the overall peace of mind that if anything in your credit profile changes positively or negatively Credit Karma will pick up on it. So even if the scores don’t exactly match what numbers lenders use or if they are different than FICO.. it’s still a good general assessment of your credit health. And I don’t know if I mentioned already that it’s FREEEEE. That’s worth a lot to a person who feels like a barefoot blind woman walking through a maze made of thumbtacks where credit is concerned. Credit confuses me. I am working to clean mine up and I like that every time I get a positive… Credit Karma picks right up on it. If I get a negative.. they pick up on that too. They’re like the CIA… Credit Intelligence Agency… it’s kinda scary how much they know… but their purpose is to empower the consumer. They provide a great service at an unbeatable price.

  36. danys187 says:

    Why is it that “Finance Gourmet” has commented on every negative comment about Credit Karma defending them? I mean if Finance Gourmet getting paid to endorse them? wtf dude?

    • I try to answer the questions I can. A lot of the negative comments have questions in them and I do my best to answer. You’ll notice I comment on a lot of the positive comments too, especially if there is a question involved. I’m just trying to help. This website isn’t big enough or influential enough to be a useful shill for anyone. The only money I get is from the AdSense advertisements on this website.

  37. Joe Loe says:

    I have one derogatory mark on my credit report. I have asked Credit Karma 7 times which creditor gave me the mark, but they only reply with an automated response — it’s killing me! They have no phone number either.

    I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM PAYING FOR THIS INFORMATION. Can anyone please direct me to a reliable source for this info???

    THANK YOU DEARLY

    • Joe, Credit Karma uses your TransUnion credit report. That information will be on that credit report. You can get one free credit report each year via annualcreditreport.com – This is the site that offers the legally required free credit reports. Do not sign up for any monitoring or other trial offers while you are getting your reports. Choose to get your Transunion report and you should find whatever the negative information is on there.

    • Scamed says:

      I WAS ASKED FOR A CC CARD… SCAMMERS… NICE TRY ….

    • Howy says:

      Go to your bank and let them run it for you and they will. Then get them to tell you the name of the company with the mark against you.

  38. Shawn b says:

    I’m so surprised at some of the comments because I’ve had absolutely no problem with Credit Karma. I’ve honestly have never been asked for ANY type of payment and I’ve even recommended them to others. I receive me score and updates that are very accurate. I check my credit religiously but they are the first company where I was able to get my score for free. I happy with them so far but if they ever ask for a payment I won’t continue to use them.

  39. Heather says:

    They are garbage… I have a 740 credit score and this site says its 565??? Yeah right. I guess that’s how they get you… Claim to be significantly lower than what it is so you open new cards to “rebuild credit”. Its a good thing I keep track of mine or else I wouldn’t have known any better. People do your research before trusting this site.

  40. […] out about Credit Karma and how, as a seasoned financial professional, I was inclined to think that Credit Karma is a scam offer for free credit scores. I decided to do a review after being asked about it […]

  41. […] wondering if Credit Karma is a scam? Find out […]

    • Paul Philbrick says:

      CreditKarma may or may not be legit or a vacuum cleaner for millions of people’s private information. I don’t know or really care. But their scores, bank balances, and debt to asset ratios were so out of line that I decided to opt out. That’s when the real fun began. First of all, they will not let you “unsubscribe”
      I finally got a real person and the sent me to the security center to “discontinue” That was not there at all. After reading the fine print I found out that they keep your private information forever, just sitting waiting to be hacked. I sent a letter to their legal depart. and received no answer. I tried to delete my information and preferences (ads and spam) and the site will not let you. Just try it!. Finally after multiple attempts to unsubscribe, I was forced to change all my financial passwords and “secret” questions. I have shared this with my lawyer, he is presently looking at the fine print, such as the clause that says they own any intellectual property and everything else they can find out about you forever. If they sell out the site, it all goes to the new owner who may be the biggest thief on the web. Which wouldn’t surprise me, as all experienced web users know that “unsubscribe” is easily found on the site and works well most of the time. How much good “Karma” are they generating by not allowing a former customer to back out. Anyone who would do this, I just don’t trust.

  42. Paul Philbrick says:

    Oh, one more thing, as a service to people who are hypnotized by the word “free” I feel it is my duty to mention that in 2013, there is nothing “free” Ever. You will pay over time in spam, ads, and come-ons until you wish you’d just paid the $15 bucks to FICO (a real, used by business number, not an educated guess,
    as everyone in the biz knows Experian and Equifax are the only trusted source for CC’s and Mortgages. Transunion is cheap and generally used by used car lots. So its on to the BBB, Facebook, twitter, whoever else I can think of and then the Attorney General. I will never stop until my name and private information is deleted from this suspect, inaccurate, website.

  43. […] Check out my look at whether Credit Karma is a scam. […]

  44. Isis says:

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this write-up and the rest of the site is
    also really good.

  45. runster says:

    Credit Karma is a scam. Every time I try for
    a free credit score, they ask for a card num.

    T V add says no card needed, not so.

  46. James says:

    Nothing in life is free. NOTHING. I don’t care what their ad says about free. CreditKarma.com WILL cost you money.

    • Finance Gourmet says:

      There are however, multiple ways that things get paid for. Advertising is Credit Karma’s current top revenue streams. Still, my grandfather used to always say, “Keep one hand on your wallet, even if they aren’t selling anything.” :)

  47. Sarah says:

    It is not a scam I use this often plus check my credit. With agents every year it’s right on target. Ect and my. Dad. Whoo is a lawyer that deals wth bankrupt people Also say it’s legit

  48. William Charles says:

    They no longer require a credit card for sign up, which is a nice little improvement.

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