FINALLY! Finally a serious reporter reveals the credit reporting agencies for the incredible sham that they are. I urge all U.S. citizens that have ever had issues with their credit or paid money to get access to their credit need worry no more. Now this information will be available FOR FREE!
Beginning Tuesday, March 1, consumers in Missouri, Illinois and 10 other Midwestern states will be able to get free copies of their credit reports from each of the three national credit bureaus.
Privacy experts say the timing is none too soon; they point to the disclosures last week of thefts of electronic data at ChoicePoint Inc. The personal information clearinghouse, based in Alpharetta, Ga., collects billions of details about Americans, their homes, cars and criminal records.
This was no simple hacker theft. The company acknowledged that in October, a fraud ring posing as legitimate businesses had stolen the financial profiles of some 145,000 people.
Those consumers are in all 50 states. ChoicePoint says 1,635 people in Missouri and 5,025 in Illinois are at risk from the identity thefts.
"The ChoicePoint scandal demonstrates how poorly companies are safeguarding consumers' sensitive personal information," says Kerry Smith, senior consumer attorney with the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups, an alliance of local advocacy groups.
She wants lawmakers to give consumers more control over their personal information and require that companies notify people when sensitive information has been compromised.
Meanwhile, Smith urges everyone to inspect their credit reports for any sign of identity theft.
Effective March 1, consumers in the Midwest can order free credit reports about themselves from each of the three major credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. Consumers can get each report once every 12 months, without charge.
Credit bureaus didn't want to be forced to give away their product - some 200 million credit reports. But Congress was reacting to an epidemic of identity thefts and in 2003 updated the Fair Credit Reporting Act to mandate free reports for consumers.
By law, credit bureaus are required to keep complete and accurate information. Generally, they don't; one study found errors in more than seven of every 10 credit reports. Consumer advocates say at least one error in four was serious enough that it could have kept someone from getting a job.
Instead of requiring credit bureaus to clean up their reports, Congress' solution was to put the burden primarily on the public: Consumers must find any errors, report them to credit bureaus and then keep track of whether the errors get fixed.
The law says that's your responsibility - along with getting your own credit reports.....