Friday, April 4, 2008

Consumers get tips for credit report protection

This week South Carolina became the 40th state to offer consumers some protection for their financial information when Gov. Mark Sanford signed an identity theft bill into law.

State Rep. Kristopher R. Crawford, R-Florence said “We may be one of the last, but we have one of the best laws anywhere”. According to consumer union nineteen people become victims of identity theft every minute in the United States.

The state’s new law allows consumers to place a freeze on their credit reports free of cost, and they can remove or temporarily lift it if needed, so potential thieves don’t have access to that data.

Crawford said “We are one of only two states where citizens don’t have to pay to freeze their credit reports — us and Indiana — and that is the heart of the deal because people need to be able to do it”.

Consumers can start freezing their credit reports from Jan. 1.

The law is a good step forward, especially for vulnerable senior citizens on fixed incomes who frequently fall prey to identity thieves, said Teresa Arnold, legislative director for AARP South Carolina, which fought for the legislation.

“People now have their own tool, and it’s a very strong tool,” she said. “And they don’t have to pay for it.”

Some states require fees as high as $10 for each of the three credit reporting agencies to freeze consumers’ reports and similar fees to remove those freezes, she said.

Among other provisions, the law also gives consumers the power to have inaccurate information removed from their credit reports, and to be notified when their security has been breached. It also provides protection for Social Security numbers by regulating how they can be posted or communicated.

The law also empowers consumers to take legal action in state court against companies that fail to remove erroneous information from their credit reports told by Crawford, a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

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