Consumers Now Have Access to Free Credit Reports, Enhanced Fraud Alerts

Starting December 1, 2004 consumers will begin to have more tools at their disposal to fight identity theft, protect against credit card fraud, and check-up on the health of their total credit picture under a new federal law.

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2004 (FACT Act) was signed into law in December 2003 giving residents of the western part of the United States the right to a free copy of their credit report each year. The provision will be phased in for consumers in states east of the Rocky Mountains over the course of the next nine months.

The new law fights identity theft and makes the U.S. credit reporting system even more effective in extending affordable and accessible credit to all who qualify.

As Treasury Secretary John Snow said about the law, "Consumer credit information will be more accurate and will be handled more safely than ever before."

Your Credit Card Companies, whose member companies worked closely with members of Congress and their staffs on this legislation, wants consumers to understand this important law and the new protections it provides. The law updated and strengthened many provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act that, when first passed in 1970, ushered in a wave of consumer protections and ensured Americans fair access to credit.

Key FACT Act provisions protecting consumers

  • Provides consumers with a free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus, from a single, centralized source. As part of a phased rollout beginning this week and continuing over the next year, consumers across America will have access to their credit records with one single call.

    Consumers can request one or all three of their free annual credit reports via the Web at www.annualcreditreport.com, by calling 1-877-322-8228, or mailing requests to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box, 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

  • Creates a national fraud alert system to simplify consumers' ability to report suspicious activity regarding their accounts. Consumers can contact any one of the three major credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on credit reports

  • Ensures that consumers are notified that negative information that could harm their creditworthiness may be reported to a credit bureau.

  • Provides consumers enhanced medical privacy protections.

  • Establishes a financial literacy commission and national financial literacy campaign.

Key FACT Act provisions for financial institutions and businesses also play a role in preventing identity theft and credit card fraud. Many facets of the bill require financial institutions and businesses to be protective of their consumers to further ensure they are not victims of fraud, including:

  • When consumers place "fraud alerts" on their credit reports, creditors are required to take specific precautions to ensure that new credit applications are legitimate.

  • Prohibits merchants from printing more than the last five digits of a credit card on a receipt.

  • Requires banks to develop and promote policies to combat identity theft and credit card fraud.

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