WASHINGTON-The Consumers Union is working to educate consumers on how to obtain and make corrections to their free credit reports. The Federal Trade Commission has begun rolling out the free credit reports program under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. Beginning March 1, consumers living in the Midwest (including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) can order a free copy of their credit report; consumers in the West already have this right and the entire U.S. will have access by September 1, 2005. “The ChoicePoint identity theft scandal (see story page 45) is another reminder of the importance of checking your credit report regularly to make sure it’s accurate and to protect yourself from fraud,” Norma Garcia, senior attorney for Consumers Union’s West Coast office, commented. “Now that credit reports are free, consumers have easy access to this important document and can take steps to make sure it offers a fair picture of their credit history.” ChoicePoint, Inc. recently announced that a fraud ring had illegally gained access to the personal information of approximately 145,000 consumers from records maintained by the company. As a result, 750 people have already reportedly become the targets of identity theft. To help consumers take advantage of the FACT Act’s benefits, Consumers Union has published “Your Credit Matters,” an online guide with detailed advice on how to order a credit report, review it for accuracy, and correct mistakes. It also provides advice about what consumers should do if they discover they’ve become a victim of identity theft. The guide is available at: http://www.consumersunion.org/issues/creditmatters.html. It is also available in Spanish.

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