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March 2005                                   Consumer Advisories

Ask for Your FREE Credit Reports

Starting March 1, credit reports are available for free.

 

As of March 1, Iowans can obtain a FREE copy of their credit reports compiled by each of the three national credit reporting bureaus. A new law entitles you to one free copy every twelve months. This is a great opportunity -- and it can help stop identity theft.

The credit reporting companies collect information about you -- important information such as if you pay your bills on time, account balances owing, and whether you've filed for bankruptcy or been sued or arrested. And the companies sell your information to creditors, insurers, employers, landlords, and other businesses who want to evaluate your credit.

Three national agencies compile credit reports - Equifax, Experian and Trans Union -- and now it's free and very easy to get your reports. (The FTC required the agencies to set up a joint clearinghouse for consumer requests.) Just go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Or call toll-free to 1-877-322-8228. Or write to P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can order all three, or stagger your requests.

Why should you obtain and examine your credit report? First of all, it is yours, and you probably should see what lenders or others are reading about you. More reasons:

  • Review your credit reports to be sure no one has stolen your identity. "Identity theft" usually means someone uses your personal information to open new accounts under your name without you knowing it. So, examine your report, and look for unfamiliar credit card accounts or other suspicious activity, such as incorrect addresses or indications of delinquent payments.
  • Check your credit reports to see if there are any errors -- and then get them corrected. Millions of credit reports are sold every day, and research shows about one in four credit reports contains an error. Errors might cause you to pay higher interest rates, or be denied a home loan, credit card, or even a new job. Federal law and FTC rules give you very specific rights to dispute and correct your credit reports.

So, go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Or go to www.FTC.gov (the Federal Trade Commission web site) for even more information on how, why, where and when to get your free credit report, how to dispute errors, and what to do if you are a victim of identity theft.

You also can get to this information by going to www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org. If you have complaints or questions, call us at 515-281-5926 or toll-free at 1-888-777-4590. Or write to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, Des Moines, Iowa 50319.

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Summary of key links for consumers:

Sites with good information about FREE CREDIT REPORTS:

www.AnnualCreditReport.com Web site for requesting credit reports from the three national credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union.

www.FTC.gov (under "hot topics," click on "Information on Free Credit Reports.") This Federal Trade Commission site is the best comprehensive and authoritative site on free credit reports. (The FTC promulgated the regulations carrying out the new law giving consumers one free credit report per year from each of the three national credit reporting companies.) The site has excellent Q&A's answering questions such as: "How do I order my free report?" "What information do I have to provide to get my free report?" (Generally, your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth.) "What if I find errors in my credit report?" and so on.

Sites with good information about IDENTITY THEFT:

www.consumer.gov/idtheft     This is the FTC site on identity theft - especially on what do do if you are a victim.

www.usps.com/websites/depart/inspect/id_intro.htm     This is the US Postal Service web site on identity theft.

http://www.iowaattorneygeneral.org/consumer/brochures/avoid_identitytheft.html      Iowa Attorney General's Office brochure on How to Avoid Identity Theft. Includes many tips on how to keep your personal information private so you won't become a victim.

http://www.iowaattorneygeneral.org/consumer/brochures/identitytheft_victims.html      Iowa Attorney General's office, A Guide for Victims of Identity Theft. Includes many tips on practical steps to take if you have been a victim.


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