Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Free Credit Reports

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson
is urging consumers to take advantage of a law that requires major credit
reporting services to provide free credit reports. The amendment to the
Fair Credit Reporting Act was designed to provide consumers who cannot or
will not pay a fee for the reports to access them for free once a year.
The law has been phased-in across the United States, and Florida residents
will be eligible for the documents on June 1.

"Reviewing your credit history is one of the most important steps people
can take to avoid identity theft," Bronson said. "If consumers find out
that someone is using their identity or credit cards without their
knowledge, the credit reports may be the first hint they have that there is
a problem."

A credit report contains information about a consumer's credit history,
including a listing of all credit cards, whether bills have been paid on
time, and whether the consumer has been sued, arrested or filed for
bankruptcy. National consumer reporting agencies sell the information to
credit card companies and other creditors, insurers, employers and other
businesses that use it to determine whether to approve an application for
credit, insurance, loans, and employment. A poor credit history can result
in rejection of credit or higher interest rates on a loan.

"Consumers should regularly review these reports for any mistakes," Bronson
said. "Identity theft is not the only concern. False information that
hurts someone's credit rating can mean the difference of whether they can
buy a home or not. It is important to ensure the information is accurate
and up to date, especially before making a major purchase."

Consumers can challenge and change incorrect information on the reports.
The three major credit reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian and
TransUnion. To obtain a free copy of reports from these agencies, log onto People should be wary of any other
sites which claim to offer free reports but steer consumers to sites that
offer services by subscription for a fee. Consumers can also order their
reports by calling toll-free

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