Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act

 Debbi Conrad  |    January 01, 2004

On December 4, 2003, President Bush signed into law the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, ensuring that consumers have the right to see their credit scores and financial data, and that all citizens are treated fairly when they apply for a mortgage or other form of credit.

This pro-consumer legislation includes many provisions sought by NAR, including the right of every consumer to receive one free credit report each year so that they might improve their credit status and check for unauthorized activity, including activity resulting from identity theft.
The act also imposes the following requirements:

  • Federal regulators must study the effects of credit scores and credit-based insurance scores on the availability and affordability of financial products, such as homeowner's insurance. NAR's Insurance Task Force was concerned with the increasing use of credit and insurance scores by insurers and others and recommended such a study regarding the relationship between scores and insurability.
  • Lenders must give consumers their numeric credit score and related credit information instead of simply telling consumers where they can get their credit report.
  • Creditors must notify consumers when negative information is added to their credit files.
  • Merchants must leave all but the last five digits of a credit card number off store receipts to help prevent identity theft before it occurs
  • Victims of identity theft only need to make one call to receive advice, set off a nationwide fraud alert, and protect their credit standing. This national fraud detection system is a great improvement over the system requiring consumers to alert their credit card companies and the three major credit rating agencies of the crime.
  • Consumers can place a national fraud alert warning on their credit files and the credit reporting agencies will be obliged to implement procedures to ensure that any future requests are by the true consumer, not an identity thief posing as the consumer. Active duty military personnel can also place special alerts on their files when they are deployed overseas.
  • Regulators must devise a list of red flag indicators of identity theft based on the practices of identity thieves, evaluate the use of these red flag indicators in their compliance examinations of financial institutions, and impose fines where disregard of red flags has resulted in losses to customers. The red flag indicators will be used to develop methods for lenders to stop identity theft before it can cause major damage.
  • Consumers must receive fair treatment in their credit reports and credit scores when they make multiple shopping inquiries to search for the best deals.
  • Consumers have new rights to correct erroneous information in their credit reports.
  • Credit furnishers must develop reasonable standards to ensure their information is accurate.

The full extent of the act remains to be seen as the FTC and other federal agencies develop implementing regulations over the next several months.

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