Free credit reports available starting September 1
Release date: 8/29/2005
Cooper urges consumers to look at their credit report, study it for signs of ID theft
Raleigh: North Carolina consumers can request a free annual copy of their credit report starting Thursday, September 1, Attorney General Roy Cooper alerted North Carolinians today.
“I encourage all North Carolinians to take advantage of this opportunity to get a free copy of your credit report and look it over carefully,” said Cooper. “Checking your credit report regularly gives you a chance to spot any errors or suspicious activity by identity thieves and take action quickly to protect your credit.”
Under a new federal law, the three major credit bureaus are required to provide consumers with a free annual copy of their credit report upon request. That means consumers can get one free credit report per year from each of the major credit bureaus, Trans Union, Equifax and Experian. Consumers can request a free copy of their credit report online at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling toll-free 1-877-322-8228.
Implementation of the new law, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, began December 1, 2004 when consumers in Western states gained access to free credit reports. September 1 marks the final phase-in of the law and gives consumers in Eastern states including North Carolina access to free credit reports.
To request a free copy of their report, consumers will need to provide basic information including their name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. People who have moved within the last two years may also need to provide their former address. Consumers will be given the option to print no more than the last four digits of their Social Security Number on their copy of the report, an option Cooper’s office recommends. To verify who you are, each credit bureau may ask for information that only you would know, such as the amount of your monthly mortgage payment or your account number.
Because consumers must request a report from each of the three credit bureaus separately, Cooper suggests that consumers may want to request copies at different times rather than requesting all three copies at the same time. By requesting one free credit report every four months, consumers can track changes in their credit and catch any suspicious activity that could be the work of identity thieves more quickly.
Once consumers receive a copy of their credit report, they should study it for errors or any loans, credit cards or other activity they don’t recognize. Errors should be reported to the credit bureau and the creditor both by telephone and in writing. Consumers who suspect identity theft can flag their accounts with a fraud alert, which requires the credit bureaus to contact you before opening any new accounts in your name or making changes to any existing accounts.
North Carolina consumers will soon have more protection from identity theft under a new law that was approved last week by the General Assembly. Under the Identity Theft Protection Act of 2005 proposed by Cooper, all consumers will have the right to place a security “freeze” on their credit report to block an identity thief from opening an account or getting credit in your name.
The measure will also minimize the use of Social Security Numbers as identification numbers, enhance protections for SSNs by both businesses and government, require businesses that are disposing of sensitive customer records to destroy those records, and require businesses to notify their customers if a security breach may have compromised their personal information. Most provisions of the new law will take effect December 1, 2005.
More tips on steps consumers can take to protect themselves from identity theft and help for consumers who believe they may be a victim of identity theft are available at www.ncdoj.gov