Your Rights Under FCRA
The Fair Credit Reporting Act, FCRA, is a federal law which promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of consumer information in the files of reporting agencies. Consumer agencies are not just limited to credit bureaus which sell information about your credit and payment histories. Other consumer agencies may sell information about your check writing histories, medical records, and rental history. Below is a summary of your rights under FCRA. You should understand these rights because the information that the consumer agencies sell to companies to make business decisions BELONGS TO YOU. Your information being sold and used by third parties must be accurate, used fairly, and only be used by appropriate parties and with your express authorization in some cases. There is no doubt that some unethical companies or their employees may abuse consumer information by selling that information to just anyone without a valid reason, or without regard for its accuracy. There is also no doubt that companies which buy your information may make the wrong decisions based on potentially false information they were provided by consumer agencies and then treat your information without any regard for privacy. You need to learn and understand your rights to protect your information. Here’s the list of your rights under FCRA:
1) You must be told if information in your file has been used against you. If anyone denies your application for credit, insurance or employment, or takes any other adverse action based on a credit or other consumer report, must tell you about their decision and give you the name, address and phone number of the consumer agency that provided the information.
2) You have the right to know what is in your file. You can ask and obtain a free copy of your credit report if:
-your application has been denied or adverse action is taken against you based on information in your file,
-you are a victim of identity theft and place a fraud alert in your file,
-your file contains inaccurate information as a result of fraud,
-you are on public assistance,
-you are unemployed but expect to apply for employment within 60 days.
3) You have the right to ask for a credit score. These scores provide information about your credit worthiness. You have to pay to obtain your scores from the credit agencies but in some mortgage transactions, you may ask for it from the mortgage lender, or, the lender may send you the score used to deny your mortgage application.
4) You have the right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information. If you notify the consumer agency about incomplete or inaccurate information in your file, they have to investigate unless your dispute is frivolous.
5) Consumer reporting agencies must correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information. Consumer agencies have 30 days to remove or correct inaccurate, incomplete or unverifiable information in your file. But, they may continue to report the information if they conclude the information is accurate following verification.
6) Consumer reporting agencies may not report outdated negative information. Negative information should be removed from your file after 7 years. Bankruptcies should be removed after 10 years.
7) Access to your file must be limited. Only parties with valid needs can have access to your files. Such parties may include a creditor, insurer, landlord, and employer.
8) You must give your consent for reports to be provided to employers. Your written consent is required for employers to obtain your credit report.
9) You may limit “prescreened” offers of credit and insurance you get based on information in your credit report. You can stop the flow of prescreened offers by removing your name and address from lists these offers are based on. You can opt-out with nationwide credit bureaus at 1-888-5-OPTOUT or 1-888-567-8688.
10) You may seek damages from violators. You can sue in state and federal courts.
11) Identity theft victims and active duty military personnel have additional rights. Please see Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, FACTA, for additional rights under FCRA that apply to identity theft.
Please note that states may enforce the federal FCRA law, or have their own consumer reporting laws. In some cases, you may have more rights under state laws. Contact your local or state consumer protection agency or your state Attorney General for more information. For additional information on FCRA, go to the Federal Trade Commission site or write to them at Consumer Response Center, Room 130-A, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
Read about FACTA after FCRA.