FCRA - Fair Credit Reporting Act
Like the Fair Debt Collection Pratices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, (or FCRA), also puts in place protections for consumers. FCRA requires credit reporting agencies, businesses that supply those agencies with information, data brokers, and business that request or use your credit report to comply with regulations that protect your rights. Not to be confused with official laws protecting excessive credit card fees, The Fair Credit Reporting Act is more specific to credit reporting. Those protections include:
You must be notified when information from your credit report is used against you. If you apply for credit, employment, or insurance and your application is denied because of information in your credit report, the business that denied your application must notify you of its action and provide you with the name and address of the agency that provided the information.
You are entitled to see your credit report. Each nationwide credit bureau must give you a free copy of the report once every year at your request. You are also entitled to free disclosure of information that was used against you when your request for credit, employment, or insurance was denied. Victims of fraud and identity theft are also entitled to review their credit reports for free.
You have the right to dispute inaccurate information. The credit reporting agency must investigate the dispute and must remove or correct information that is false, incomplete, or unverifiable. It must usually do so within 30 days after receiving your notice that you are disputing the information.
Outdated negative information cannot appear in your report. Negative information that is more than 7 years old and bankruptcies that are more than 10 years old cannot appear in your credit report.
You can choose not to receive unsolicited “prescreened” credit offers. You can use a toll-free number to remove your name from lists that are offered to creditors who “prescreen” potential credit applicants.
Any violation of the FCRA that harms a consumer can entitle the consumer to a remedy. Common examples of FCRA credit report violations that trigger lawsuits include:
Failing to update credit reports to reflect changed circumstances (such as listing an outstanding debt that was paid or discharged in bankruptcy).
Reporting inaccurate information (such as designating payments as late when they were paid on time, misstating balances due, listing you as the debtor on an account when you were only an authorized user, or attributing debt to you after being notified that you were the victim of identity theft).
Including someone else’s bad credit history on your credit report (usually because the person has a similar name or social security number).
Failing to contact a creditor after you dispute a debt listed on your credit report.
Failing to investigate disputes or to correct your report within 30 days after receiving notice of your dispute.
You may need to dispute inaccurate information in your credit report and to give the agency a chance to correct the mistake before you can bring a lawsuit. If you receive a copy of your credit report and find inaccurate information, you may also need to send an “opt out” letter to preserve your right to bring a lawsuit (rather than being forced into binding arbitration). The credit report will explain how to do that.
Violations of Privacy
Credit reporting agencies cannot supply your credit report to anyone who does not have a legitimate need for it, including creditors, landlords, and employers. A potential or current employer cannot obtain your credit report unless you consent to its disclosure. In most cases, that consent must be given in writing.
Consumers are exposed to the risk of identity theft whenever a credit reporting agency releases a credit report in violation of the FCRA. In some cases there could have been a data breach that caused your information to be stolen. Data brokers regularly violate the FCRA by providing consumer reports to employers and landlords without verifying that the person or business making the request is entitled to receive the report.
The FCRA provides remedies for consumers who were injured due to privacy violations. If you have been the victim of an unauthorized disclosure of information about your credit, you should contact an attorney that specializing in credit reporting violations immediately.
Creditor Credit Report Violations
Creditors that provide information to credit reporting agencies have an obligation to report accurate information. If you have disputed the legitimacy of an alleged debt, your creditor must notify the credit reporting agency of your dispute if and when it reports the debt.
If you dispute a debt with a creditor, the creditor must investigate and resolve the dispute (usually within 30 to 45 days). If the dispute resulted from identity theft, the creditor must notify you of the procedure it has established to resolve identity theft claims. Within 5 days after completing its investigation, the creditor must notify you of the result and must submit corrected information to every credit reporting bureau to which it furnished inaccurate information.
What You Can Do
If you or someone you know is struggling with incorrect credit reporting, speaking with a FCRA lawyer will give you a better understanding of your legal options and help you make an informed decisions.