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Bush signs Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003

December 5, 2003

Consumers to get annual free credit report, other protections

Inman News

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Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003

President George W. Bush today signed into law federal legislation that's intended to help consumers protect themselves from identity theft.

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 gives consumers the right to a free credit report once a year, requires merchants to leave off all but the last five digits of a credit-card number on store receipts, creates a national system of fraud detection to increase the likelihood of apprehending identity thieves, establishes a nationwide system of fraud alerts for consumers to place on their credit files, requires regulators to devise a list of indicators of identity theft, and requires lenders and credit agencies to take action even before the victim knows a crime has occurred, according to a White House statement.

Identity theft is no small problem. A Federal Trade Commission survey released in September found 27.3 million people were victims of identity theft in the last five years, including 9.9 million people in the last year alone. Identity thefts last year cost businesses and financial institutions nearly $48 billion and cost victims $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses, according to the FTC.

"For several years we have been seeing anecdotal evidence that identity theft is a significant problem that is on the rise. Now we know. It is affecting millions of consumers and costing billions of dollars," Howard Beales, director of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection, said in a statement at the time.

The FTC survey found in the past 12 months 3.23 million consumers discovered that new accounts had been opened and other frauds (e.g., renting an apartment or home or obtaining medical care or employment) had been committed in their name. The loss to businesses and financial institutions in those cases was $10,200 per victim and the individual victims lost an average of $1,180.

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