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Here is more new information that will be of interest to everyone.

Making the most of the new Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003

Congress has finally passed and President Bush has signed into law the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, know as FACTA, which updates the existing Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which regulates the credit reporting industry.

The purpose of the new law is to prevent identity theft, improve resolution of consumer disputes on your credit report, improve the accuracy of your credit record and make it easier for you to get access to your credit record. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2004 and here are some of what it will do for you:

1. Make it easier to get a free copy of your credit report. When you request a copy of your report, each of the big three credit reporting bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion- must provide you one free copy a year. In the past, some states mandated that you get a free report and you could get one if you were denied credit, but now you can get one each year if you just ask, either by phone, letter or Internet.

2. Make it easier to keep incorrect negative information off your credit file. For the first time, creditors must notify you whenever negative information is gong to be sent to the credit bureau to be put on your report. This might include a late payment, foreclosure, bankruptcy, judgment or anything else that will harm your credit score. Once you get this notice and think the information is not correct, you can dispute it before it gets on your credit report, both with the creditor and with the credit bureau.

3. Notify you when you are taking actions that will lower your score. Many consumers do not seem to realize that when they apply for credit frequently, it hurts their score. So if you are shopping for a car and each auto dealer pulls your credit, or you shop for a mortgage in several places, those are considered "hard" inquiries and they will lower your score. The new law will force the credit bureaus to notify you that your frequent applications for credit are hurting your credit score.

4. Protect you against ID theft. The law allows you to put a "fraud alert" on your credit report if you have had your ID swiped by a thief so that no more damage will be done. This will prevent the thief from opening new credit accounts in your name, for example. The law also allows you to block information that was caused by an identity theft from being put on your credit report.

The law also mandates that if you call one credit bureau, the bureau shares that information with the other two, such as if you are putting a fraud alert on your credit report. The bill also restricts how credit bureaus share information about you with other businesses, and allows you to "Opt out" of giving out your name to others, which is designed to help you protect your privacy.

Staying on top of your credit report is extremely important, particularly with almost 10 million Americans being hit by ID theft in the last year with damages of about $5 billion. Hopefully, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 will make it easier for you to see and monitor your credit record than it has ever been.

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