Free credit reports now availablemortgagepress.comcredit maintenance, consumer demand, fraud
As of Dec. 1, residents of western states along with Alaska and
Hawaii are able to receive free copies of their credit reports
every year from the three major credit agencies--Equifax, Experian
and TransUnion. People in the Midwest can begin ordering theirs as
of March 1, while those in the South start June 1. Residents of
eastern states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories are
last, starting Sept. 1.
Chicago-based TransUnion LLC spokeswoman Colleen Martin said
that the reason the program is being launched region by region is
that the credit reporting agencies have no way to gauge what public
demand will be for the free reports.
"That's the great unknown," she said. "We want to ensure that
all consumers have the best possible experience, so we want to make
sure we have the proper scale built up."
The public's access to free copies of their reports was mandated
by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003. The law,
better known as the FACT Act, was designed to help Americans better
monitor the reports that are used by banks and merchants to
determine if they'll lend to a consumer and at what interest
Joel Winston, associate director of the financial practices
division at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., said
Congress had two main goals in passing the law.
"The first was to help consumers spot identity theft," Winston
said. "The rationale was that the more consumers are familiar with
their credit reports, the more they're likely to spot things
showing up related to identity theft."
The second, he said, was increasing complaints about
inaccuracies in the reports.
"There were concerns that errors could mean consumers would be
denied credit or would get it only at higher rates," Winston said.
"Getting their reports regularly should enhance consumers' ability
to find those errors and get them corrected."
In coordination with the FTC, the three credit bureaus have
started a collaborative program to deliver the reports. Consumers
will be able to request their reports online at
www.annualcreditreport.com or call a toll-free number, (877)
322-8228, to request a report. They can also mail a request to
Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta,
Ga., 30348-5281. In the past, only residents of a handful of states
with special laws could get free credit reports. In addition,
consumers who were turned down for loans because of something
negative in their reports also had free access. Consumer advocates
are urging Americans to take advantage of the new service. Some
suggest consumers get all three bureau reports at once to check
them for accuracy. Others advocate getting one every four months so
they can monitor changes over time.
For more information, visit www.annualcreditreport.com.