New Law Frees Up Credit Reports; Documents Can Spy Identity Theft

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Ramstack, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A new federal law that will be phased in beginning next week will allow anyone who wants to see their credit report to get at least one copy a year from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies.

The law takes effect first on the West Coast beginning Wednesday. East Coast residents will qualify for the free credit reports beginning Sept. 1.

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act is supposed to help consumers monitor the credit records, which can control their major purchases and employment opportunities. Credit reports also can help them detect identity theft before it ruins their credit ratings for years.

"The new law empowers consumers by giving them free copies of their credit reports, along with instructions on how to improve their creditworthiness," said Rep. Spencer Bachus, Alabama Republican, who sponsored the legislation. "Additionally, the law contains effective mechanisms to combat and minimize identity theft, which is one of America's fastest-growing white-collar crimes."

The District of Columbia had the most identity theft per capita last year with 123.1 cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Identity theft normally refers to use of stolen credit cards or using credit-card information to open or steal from other people's accounts. It costs consumers about $5 billion per year.

"If somebody has opened a credit-card account by using your Social Security number and is racking up bills in your name, you should do what you can to find out about it," said Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. …