Federal Free Credit Report Law Congress approved a law that will allow each individual a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (CRA) every 12 months. However, if a person is denied credit, finds errors in their credit reports, or is a suspected victim of identity theft, they are still allowed a free credit report in addition to this new law. In June 2004, the Federal Trade Commission announced the final rule, which provides for a gradual, structured roll-out of the centralized source of these reports. The centralized source will become available in cumulative stages, over a period of nine months, rolling-out from west to east beginning December 1, 2004. The entire transition will be complete by Sept. 1, 2005. Consumers will become eligible on the following schedule: Western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) will become eligible on December 1, 2004; Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) will become eligible on March 1, 2005; Southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas ) will become eligible on June 1, 2005; Eastern states (Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia), Puerto Rico, and all U.S. territories will become eligible on September 1, 2005. The roll-out of the centralized source is cumulative, so once a consumer becomes eligible to obtain a free report, they stay eligible and may request their report at any time, as long as it is not more often than once in any 12-month period. For example, Californians become eligible on Dec. 1 2004. A California consumer can choose to wait to obtain their report until the following June or even later, but once they get their free report, they can't get another from the same CRA for 12 months. Since an individual is not required to order all three credit reports at the same time, unless they are a victim of identity theft, Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and other consumer groups are recommending that an individual stagger the free report orders, which in doing so, creates a free regular monitoring service for themselves. Example--If you live in California order a report from credit reporting agency (CRA) #1 in January, a report from CRA #2 in April, and a report from CRA #3 in September or October. Since you must wait 12 months you can then order a report from agency #1 again in January. Should you ever find any problems with a report, such as an account you never opened, you automatically qualify as a potential identity theft victim and may get the other two reports immediately. Currently, if you live in one of the following states, you are already entitled to receive a free credit report by mail: Colorado, Georgia (2 per year), Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, or Vermont. If you currently reside in one of these states, you may order your free credit report by calling 1-800-685- 1111. All other states are required to pay the $9.00 fee with the exception of Connecticut - $5, Minnesota - $3; California - $8, and Montana - $8.50. Additionally, if you meet one of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA of 1970) requirements below, you are entitled to one free credit report via U.S. mail: • Persons that are unemployed and intend to apply for employment within 60 days. • Persons receiving public welfare assistance. • Persons who believe their consumer file contains inaccurate information due to fraud. • Persons that have been the subject of adverse action, such as denial of credit or insurance, within the past 60 days. When ordering a credit report my mail, include your full name, Social Security number, current and previous addresses for the past five years, date of birth, signature, and phone number. While the CRAs are not yet providing Spanish telephone service, the FTC is working to add that capability to their website to help Spanish-speaking individuals order reports. General information on identity theft is available in Spanish at: http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/espanol.html. If you have any questions about the new federal free credit report program, contact ITRC at email@example.com (858-693-7935) or the FTC at www.ftc.gov (877-FTC-HELP). If you are in California, you may also contact the Office of Privacy Protection- www.privacy.ca.gov for any updates. They also have information about the California credit freeze laws at www.privacy.ca.gov/financial/cfreeze.htm. Other states may also have information posted through the state Attorney General or Consumer Protection Agency websites. For more information on the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), visit: www.consumerlaw.org/initiatives/facta/nclc_analysis.shtml.
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