Uncle Sam recently made it easier to check your credit report -- and provided more reason to do so.
When the Fair Credit Reporting Act was overhauled last month, Congress enacted a "no credit report left behind"-style provision that grants all consumers one free credit report a year. (Until now, freebies were limited to certain states or to those who were turned down for credit.) The bill also contains a "one call for all" feature requiring credit bureaus to share consumer calls on identity theft and fraud alert requests.
We like freebies, but this one comes at a cost. The new provisions override tougher privacy requirements passed by states such as California, where a new state law prohibited banks, insurance companies, and others from sharing their customers' personal information. While there are opt-out features at most firms, finding them can be tougher than navigating Capitol Hill.
Less privacy also means more inquiring marketing minds, increasing the chance for fraud by unscrupulous employees who have access to your personal data. (One ring of identity thieves was caught selling credit data for $30 a file.)
We think preventive medicine -- such as limited access to credit files -- is a better idea than deputizing consumers to play credit cop. Still, as with many things in life, it's up to you to look out for No. 1. And now that includes keeping your credit safe from identity thieves.