Friday, December 31, 2004


It's time for that traditional holiday treat, making resolutions. Every year for a very long time I have kept mine without fail. Really, I have. Every year I make one and only one resolution and I always keep it. I resolve to make no other resolutions.

But something it is a good idea to resolve to do is to keep track of your credit record. Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, consumers will be allowed to obtain one free copy of their credit report each year from each of the big three credit reporting firms: Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax. What some have suggested is that you rotate through them, asking for your report from a different one every four months. The request can be made by phone, in writing, or on line.

The law set a roll-out schedule for this: Since December 1, residents of fourteen Western states have been able to do this; those in the Midwest will become eligible on March 1; those in the South, on June 1; those on the East coast, September 1.

There is one small hitch: The credit companies are going out of their way to keep people from knowing about it. According to a mailing earlier this month from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC),
the credit reporting agencies have blocked external web links to the free report site, claiming that links create security risks.
The result is that this link, which is to, where you can find instructions in how to get your free report, will not work. You can cut and paste the link into your browser to get there, but I can't link you to it. Feel free to try it.
EPIC and a coalition of consumer and privacy groups have urged the Federal Trade Commission to order the credit reporting agencies to refrain from blacklisting links to the site. The coalition letter argues that blocking links violates federal regulations; that it drives down search engine rankings for the free site, making it more likely that individuals will find a fee-based site; and that "every subtle and not so subtle web design tactic has been employed to make [the site] difficult to find and use. It appears this is unlikely to have occurred by accident, because many of the tactics represent bad web design, mistakes that only beginner HTML authors would make."
The kind of information they hold about you is available to and used by a wide variety of businesses and agencies. But god forbid you should find out. By the way, EPIC also notes that
[t]he free report requirement also applies to "nationwide specialty" credit reporting agencies, such as ChoicePoint and the Medical Information Bureau, that collect and sell employment, tenant, medical, and insurance reports
under the same roll-out schedule as the credit reports.

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