Free report of their credit history for consumers

LITTLE ROCK, AR -- On December 1, 2004, a new federal law became effective, allowing consumers to receive one free report of their credit history every 12 months. The first phase-in of this law will only affect 13 western states, and Arkansans won’t be able to take advantage of it until June 1, 2005. However, state and federal authorities expect a new wave of scams to emerge as the free credit reports begin to be offered by the three nationwide credit-reporting agencies.



Arkansans will likely be targeted by these scams along with other consumers nationwide. “Your credit history is a vital factor in today’s consumer culture,” Beebe said. “This new law will eventually help Arkansans better understand and track their credit reports at no cost.



However, there are scam artists who will try to trick you into giving them your information, and that can lead to damaging the very credit you are trying to track and protect.”



Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003, the three nationwide credit-reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – are beginning to accept requests from consumers for free annual credit reports. Even though the phase-in won’t include Arkansans until next June, it is likely that consumers here will soon receive solicitations by e-mail, postal mail and telephone, offering assistance in obtaining a free credit report under the new federal law. All such offers claiming a connection to the new law are scams.



The only legitimate way to receive a free credit report under the new law will be to personally request one from any of the three credit-reporting companies. There will be no costs associated with the report. The credit bureaus may try to sell you additional in-depth credit information and services when you request your free report, but that is an option you may choose or refuse.



Obtaining credit information is one of the easiest ways for scam artists to steal your identity. If consumers are trying to obtain their credit report, they should only give out personal information directly to the credit-reporting company. While the free reports will not be available to Arkansans for six months, you can still obtain your credit history from the three companies for less than ten dollars. Never give out your personal information unless you are positive about who the recipient is.



If you have questions about your credit history, you may contact any of the three national credit-reporting companies:



- Equifax: 800-685-1111 or www.equifax.com



- Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742) or www.experian.com



- Trans Union: 800-916-8800 or www.transunion.com

You may also contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-888-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357 or online at www.ftc.gov.



For information on other consumer matters, contact the Public Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office at Suite 200, 323 Center Street, Little Rock, AR 72201. The office can be reached by calling 682-2341 (Little Rock) or 1-800-482-8982. Spanish-speaking consumers can also call (501) 683-3130. TDD service is available for the hearing impaired at 682-6073. The address on the World Wide Web is www.arkansasag.gov.



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