I haven’t verified this, but it looks promising.  Somebody help me out?



WASHINGTON - You needn’t be one of the 17 million Americans already victimized by identity theft to profit from free yearly credit reports under a federal law that kicks off Wednesday.

That’s when the new AnnualCreditReport.com Web site starts fielding requests for one free report a year from the three national credit reporting services, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. AnnualCreditReport.com also can be accessed by toll-free phone number at 877-322-8228 and mail at Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Credit reports track the amount of debt you have and whether you pay your bills on time; the better your three-number score, the more likely you can borrow at lower rates, reduce insurance premiums and even cut utility bills - areas where a bad credit rating will cost you.

However, the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups reports that 79 percent of credit reports contain mistakes, ranging from multiple listings of the same loan to mistaken identities.

The free reports will let you look for:

# Accounts that aren’t yours.

# Late-payment notices charged to your name that you think were on time.

# Multiple collection-agency notices for a single debt.

# Inquiries to see if someone you don’t know reviewed your credit history.

# Incorrect tax liens, default judgments or bankruptcy filings.

The free reports won’t let you correct mistakes, however. That will take additional steps that require you to go to the credit bureau sites: [url=http://www.equifax.com]http://www.equifax.com,[/url] [url=http://www.experian.com]http://www.experian.com[/url] and [url=http://www.transunion.com]http://www.transunion.com[/url] The free reports do walk you through ways to dispute mistakes, as does a new Federal Trade Commission brochure, “Your Access to Free Credit Reports,” at [url=http://www.ftc.gov/credit]http://www.ftc.gov/credit[/url]

Eligibility for free yearly reports will be phased in over the next nine months, starting with Western states including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Midwest consumers can get their free credit reports March 1 and Southerners June 1. Residents of the East Coast, District of Columbia and U.S. territories are last, starting Sept. 1, 2005.

The change expands on state laws that already require free reports on request for residents of Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont.

FTC spokeswoman Jan Schwartzman says the free reports should let you spot identity theft, which takes a typical victim 175 hours to correct, and uncover mistaken credit-report entries to improve your creditworthiness.

“It’s especially beneficial to review your credit report before you are ready to apply for that dream-house mortgage or the new-car loan,” adds Janet Kincaid, FDIC senior consumer affairs officer.

Visitors to the AnnualCreditReport.com will first be asked to identify their home state. Only residents of eligible states will be able to move on to the second free-report step during the nine-month rollout.

Consumers not yet eligible can link to each of the three credit bureaus’ Web sites and order their reports for a fee, typically $9.95.

However, Experian Consumer Direct is running an online promotion so consumers nationwide can access their Experian credit report once at no charge during December 2004 through [url=http://www.FreeCreditReport.com]http://www.FreeCreditReport.com[/url] Consumers who contact that Web site will be asked to sign up for another Experian service, Triple Advantage, which carries a $12.95 price tag, however.

And all three credit bureaus will offer fee-based products to people ordering a free report. Equifax will ask them to buy a consumer attractiveness index for lenders for $6.95; Experian will sell credit-monitoring service subscriptions for $4.95 a month, and TransUnion will sell identity-theft monitoring and other services.

Linda Sherry of advocacy group Consumer Action calls the free reports “a good first step” but warns consumers to beware of fee-based sales pitches and credit services offering “free” credit reports at a price. “Don’t confuse consumers: Something free should be free,” she says. 

Posted by SPN on 12/01 at 09:58 AM in Blogging

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