A new federal law, known as the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, or FACTA, adopted by Congress in 2003 gives consumers nationwide the right to receive a free copy of their credit report. The law is being phased in through the U.S. and Midwest states are next on the rollout list. The ability for consumers to get a free copy of their credit report annually started on the West Coast on December 1, 2004, and individuals living in the Midwest can start receiving their reports on March 1, 2005. Consumers east of the Midwest region will get the same right as the law is phased in across the country by September 1, 2005.
Starting March 1, consumers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin will be entitled to one free copy of their credit report annually from each of the nationwide credit bureaus. The major credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Jordana Beebe, Communications Director for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) said, “By requiring credit reporting bureaus to provide free credit reports annually upon request, the new law enables consumers to more readily monitor if they are victims of identity theft or if their credit reports contain errors. Often, errors on a credit report cause consumers to pay higher interest rates for credit.”
Consumers can request their free credit reports through a web site, https://www.annualcreditreport.com, by calling toll-free 877-322-8228, or by filling out and mailing in the Annual Credit Report Request form available at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/requestformfinal.pdf.
The PRC suggests that consumers stagger their free reports over the course of a year by ordering one report every four months and thus, consumers can monitor their credit to alert them to possible identity theft.
The PRC has information posted on its web sites about how to review a credit report and what to do if there are errors or evidence of identity theft.
For more information:
- PRC's Fact Sheet 6, How Private is My Credit Report
- PRC’s Fact Sheet 6(a), FACTA, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act:
Consumers Win Some, Lose Some
- PRC’s Fact Sheet 17(a), Identity Theft: What to Do if It Happens to You,
- Federal Trade Commission's Facts for Consumers, Your Access to Free Credit Reports,
- A recent survey by US PIRG found a high degree of inaccuracies in credit reports,