Robert Humphrey asked:
1. Introduction: The FACT Act
As of December 1st, 2004, a new federal law became effective called the FACT Act. This acronym stands for Fair & Accurate Credit Transaction Act. The main thing to understand is it means more change. The changes are for individual consumers, businesses, and the three (3) major credit bureaus. We will focus on the consumer and credit bureau changes for the purposes of this publication. If you need more information for the protection of your business, please consult with your legal counsel.
Here are some of the more notable changes:
Changes in credit information management for businesses, including criminal penalties Changes in credit dispute procedures & corrections, including cross-bureau corrections for consumers Changes in availability of personal credit information for your review (read they’re finally going digital) for consumers The objectives for this article are focused on educating the consumer to understand their options under the new law and include: Educate you on how Identity Theft is changing personal credit issues Educate you about your consumer rights & procedures for correcting erroneous credit information Educate you on how to stay on top of things for your financial security, so you can be more proactive in protecting you and your family
2. Before: Problems No One Wanted (& No One Seemed To Want To Address)
If you have ever tried to get erroneous credit information removed from one of your credit bureau reports, you know just how hard it has been to accomplish. One of the other credit bureau problems many of us have been through was trying to get one of the bureaus to correct a problem, and then get the subject credit bureau to communicate with the other two major credit bureaus. This was nearly impossible if you had to go through it yourself (and I had). One of the worst parts was that there seemed to be very little a consumer could do to challenge the three (3) major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). The coup de gras was that if you didn’t have, or couldn’t acquire, the documentation the credit bureaus requested, you had very little chance to get the error or problem corrected. One of the other issues that has seemed to plague consumers who wanted to monitor their credit information has been cost. If you wanted to get your current credit reports, you had to pay money out of your own pocket just to monitor your information. Although many states had state laws to allow consumers one (1) free credit report per year, many consumers weren’t aware of this. The net effect was that most consumers rarely learned they had a problem until they had their credit bureaus pulled for a consumer transaction or application for credit. At that point if there was an unknown surprise, it was not uncommon for the consumer to receive a decline for the credit transaction.
Another major problem was that although you would think there would be strong laws in the past to protect consumer credit, the consumer protection laws on the books were not really effective. Many had concluded that a stronger deterrent to businesses mismanaging consumer credit information was needed as identity theft was increasing. So as identity theft began to explode in frequency and severity, there was a strong current of opinion to put some teeth into protecting consumers more. As soon as mismanaged credit information was tied to some cases of attempted identity theft & fraud as well as [criminally] successful cases, Congress finally acted. The result of their action was the new federal law called the FACT Act.
3. Massive Increases in ID Theft and Fraud Push Us over the Edge
You’ve all seen the incredible news on the television or in the newspapers about major financial institutions losing data archives in transit from their headquarters to their offsite storage location. This has happened so many times that the headlines don’t even startle anymore. Is that scary or what? We’re losing millions of records, or rather millions of may be lost or stolen, it seems like every month at least. Do you know what the really scary part is? In California, they have a law that says that if your credit records have the possibility of having been compromised, you must be informed. What if the loss or theft occurs in another state where the same laws don’t exist? That’s right. The credit bureaus may or may not notify based on the other state’s laws. So if you’re thinking that we may not be notified every time credit information might have been compromised, you would probably be right.
So how do these mass credit information compromises occur? Well, it can happen in many ways. Sometimes it happens because of an inside theft ring, at a credit card company for instance. Other times it’s just mismanagement or poor handling of client’s information, the loss of data backups for instance. One of the classic scams has been theft of credit information at a business establishment you had patronized.One of the scariest ideas that must be considered is that there are new scams being produced all of the time. Some intelligent, bright criminals are always working on new types of scams. It sounds crazy, but you may never be able to keep up with all of the scams. It is for this reason that you must become proactive in monitoring your credit information, at least until there are some step-changes in the way the current credit system is managed and maintained.
Go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com/
Rolled out in western states 1st
Was across whole country by September 1st, 2005
One free report from each bureau/yr
Online credit information dispute resolution system
Automatic required supply of revised credit data to other credit bureaus
Protection thru severe penalties for credit data users
Can also use 877-322-8228
Further Info:FACT ACT Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION 16 CFR Part 682FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT Ellen Finn or Susan McDonald, Attorneys, (202) 326-3224, Division of Financial Practices, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580.