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New rules bring extra credit protection

Thanks to a new consumer protection law, folks in the Volunteer state are now able to obtain free copies of their credit reports annually.

Called the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, the measure became law at the end of 2003 and took effect in December 2004. One key feature of the provision is that it requires, upon request, each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus — Experian, Equifax and Trans Union — to provide all consumers with one free credit report per year.

Throughout the nation, FACTA is taking effect in three phases. Those in Western and Midwestern states had the opportunity to request their reports when the measure first took effect.

As of June 1, 2005, residents of Tennessee and other Southern states can now request their reports. Residents of Eastern states are able to request their reports beginning Sept. 1, 2005.

If you want to find out specifically when you will be able to order your report, go to this link: at the Federal Trade Commission Web site.

The three credit bureaus have joined forces to offer an easy way to obtain your credit report by going to this Internet address: You can request, view and print any or all of your three reports.

The Internet site is secure, but if you are reluctant to use an online resource, you can request a report by phone toll free at 877-322-8228. You also can obtain copies of your reports by mail by completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form available on the FTC site and sending it to the following address: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You’ll need to give your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth. To verify your identity, you may need to provide some information that only you would know.

Easy access to your credit history offers a number of advantages. You can ascertain that there are no mistakes that later may cause problems when you seek to obtain additional credit or secure a loan or mortgage. It’s also a way to make certain that people aren’t using your credit identity for their own purposes. Be sure to obtain reports from all three bureaus — they don’t necessarily all report the same information, and the possibility exists that any one of them might make a mistake.

Remember, in this provision only Experian, Equifax and Trans Union are required to provide the free reports. Be on the alert for scam artists who offer to obtain copies of your credit report for you. They may be looking to obtain personal information about you for the purpose of identity theft.

FACTA offers consumers protection in a number of other ways:

• Retailers will have to take better care to protect your identity. Credit card or debit card receipts may reveal only the last five digits of the card number.

• You will be able to “opt out” and block solicitations from affiliates of a company with which the company does business.

• The new law makes permanent the rules regarding uniform standards on what bureaus can include in consumer credit reports.

• Banks are now required to tell you if they report any negative information about your credit to a credit bureau.

• Anyone to whom you owe a debt who learns that information on your credit report is fraudulent must inform you that the information is false.

• If you are the victim of identity theft and file a police report, you will be able to block fraudulent information from showing up on your report.

• Once a credit bureau receives a fraud alert (a statement placed on your credit report alerting creditors that private financial information may have been compromised), the bureau must take steps to ensure that you will be granted credit in the future.

Jeff Francis is senior vice president and senior investment officer for First Tennessee Brokerage. For more information about this or other personal finance issues, please call 865-971-2321, or visit your local First Tennessee financial center.


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