Back in May, TransUnion, one of the big 3 credit reporting agencies in the United States, announced that it would soon begin providing consumers with up to nine months of free credit monitoring services. But if you want to take advantage of this offer, you need to do it soon.

Why would TransUnion do this?

According to the informational web site, the class action lawsuit claims that TransUnion “violated state laws and the Fair Credit Reporting Act by selling lists containing personal and financial consumer credit-related information to third parties for use in target marketing.” The explanation goes on to state that “the Defendants (TransUnion and Acxiom) provided more information than was allowed under the FCRA to credit grantors or insurance companies…”

While the court didn't decide in favor of the plaintiffs or TransUnion, both sides agreed to settle the case to avoid “the cost and risk of a trial.” As with any settlement, no blame was assigned.

Who qualifies for the settlement?

This is where it gets interesting. Basically, if you had an open credit account or an open line of credit from a credit grantor (including automobile loans, bank credit cards, department store credit cards, student loans or a mortgage loan) between January 1, 1987 and May 28, 2008 in the United States, you qualify.

Time is running out

Consumers can take advantage of this settlement in two ways:

1. Sign up for 6 months of free credit report monitoring. This gives you unlimited daily access to your TransUnion credit report and FICO score for 6 months with the ability to lock your credit report from view by unwanted companies without your consent (unless allowed by law). This normally retails for $59.75. By selecting this option, you can also request a cash settlement (this will be disbursed if there is any money left in a fund after all costs and expenses are paid from the settlement fund.

2. Sign up for 9 months of enhanced free credit monitoring. This includes everything from (1) plus insurance scores and a mortgage simulator service (that shows you what mortgage rates you should qualify for. This normally retails for $115.50. By choosing this option, you give up the rights to sue the Defendants for certain damage claims and you also give up the right to receive a cash payment from the settlement fund.

How to get benefits

To take advantage of this program, go to In the left column, click on the “Register for Benefits” line under “Benefits” and fill out the form and check which benefit option you want. Finally, enter the check words in the correct line and hit the “submit” button.

Remember, you have to register by September 24, 2008. Once you register, you will have 6 months after the Court grants final approval to the settlement (the court hasn't granted final approval of the settlement as of this writing) to activate your credit monitoring benefit.

The Bottom Line

Here at Auto Credit Express, we know that although there is no such thing as a free lunch, this offer really does come close. The time to register, however, is running out. So if you've always wanted to try a credit monitoring service just to see what it was like, now would be a great time to do it and it won't cost you a cent.