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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 5, 2003

Bush signs legislation on credit, ID theft

 •  Steel tariffs eliminated

By Deb Riechmann
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Americans will be able to get free copies of their credit histories every year and will gain new weapons against identity thieves under legislation President Bush signed into law yesterday.

"People work hard to build up good credit histories and rely on their credit to move forward in life," Bush said at the White House. "We're helping to make our credit system fair, fair to all, and to better protect people from those who would abuse it."

The legislation renewed the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which set a national credit reporting standard to make it easier for people to get credit cards, loans and mortgages. Without reauthorization by Congress, the act would have expired.

Not everyone favored the legislation.

Opponents said it pre-empts tougher state privacy laws that prevent businesses from sharing their customers' financial information with other companies.

Critics also wanted lawmakers to change a provision that would stop states from setting separate rules on how businesses use, share and report data on consumers.

Under the legislation, consumers will be able to e-mail, call or write the three major credit bureaus for a free copy of their credit report and their credit score each year to help them understand why their credit was denied or approved.

The law requires businesses to black out Social Security numbers, parts of credit card numbers and debit card numbers on receipts, and require the coding of medical information on credit reports.

"This law will help prevent identity theft before it occurs by requiring merchants to delete all but the last five digits of a credit card number on store receipts," Bush said.

An estimated 9.9 million Americans last year were victims, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The law also creates a national system of fraud detection so that identity theft can be traced quickly.

Until now, victims of identity theft have had to call credit card companies to shut down their accounts, and the three major credit rating agencies to report the crime and protect their credit rating.