SAN DIEGO, CA - The arrival of free credit reports on December 1st is getting a lot of attention these days. (www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.htm) But there is another kind of report, called "specialty consumer reports," that individuals can obtain at no charge beginning on the first of the month.
The federal law that requires credit reporting bureaus to provide free reports is the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, also known as FACTA. The law also gives consumers the right to one free report prepared by a "nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency" that compiles files on consumers relating to:
-- Medical records or payments (for example, the MIB report) -- Residential or tenant history. (for example, the UD Registry) -- Check writing history (for example ChexSystems) -- Employment history. (for example, background checks provided by Choicepoint) -- Insurance claims. (for example, CLUE)
Access to a "specialty" report is available December 1, 2004, for all consumers nationwide. This is not subject to the same phase-in schedule that applies to credit reports. FTC regulations (www.ftc.gov/os/2004/06/040624factafreeannualfrn.pdf) require companies that prepare reports on consumers for employment, insurance claims, rental, check writing, and medical records history, as a minimum, to establish a toll free telephone number for ordering free file disclosures. Specialty reporting companies may also provide information on a web site.
Not everyone has a need to obtain every free specialty report. Consumers should order a "specialty" report before shopping for new homeowners or automobile insurance, opening a new checking account, applying for private health or life insurance, or renting a home or apartment.
Job applicants who have consistently been turned down for a job can also benefit from this new FACTA right. Employers, landlords, insurance companies and banks that use specialty consumer reports are obligated to give consumers a free report if services are denied. However, the new FACTA provision gives consumers the chance to get their file free directly from the companies that prepare these specialty reports.
Consumers who find errors in a "specialty" report have the same rights to dispute as with errors found in a credit report.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is a nonprofit consumer information and advocacy organization based in San Diego, CA. http://www.privacyrights.org
Free credit reports web site and phone number, shared by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion: http://www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228
Federal Trade Commission information on free credit reports: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/freereports.htm
PRC information on specialty consumer reports: CLUE (insurance): http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs26-CLUE.htm
MIB (medical): http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs8-med.htm
Employment background checks: http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs16-bck.htm
For more information on FACTA, http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs6a-facta.htm
Contact: Beth Givens (619) 298-3396
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse