18 Aug

Know Your Rights Under The Fair Credit Reporting Act

General in consumer protection law, fair credit reporting act, fcra, identity theft

fair credit reporting act rights

If your personal information has been abused or stolen, and your credit has taken a hit, you have rights! Read on to understand what you are legally entitled to, and call The Florida Law Group if you are the victim of identity theft and need the advice of an experienced consumer protection lawyer.

Recently, The Florida Law Group announced that we were expanding our elite attorney team and welcomed John C. Distasio, who specializes in consumer protection law. One of Mr. Distasio’s main practice areas is the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Many people are unfamiliar with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), but because credit affects virtually every aspect of American life, it is important for consumers to understand their legal rights under the FCRA so they can protect themselves and their credit from identity theft and other injustices.

What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a law, passed in 1970, that regulates how credit reporting agencies and other businesses can use information regarding your credit history. Credit reporting agencies (also known as consumer reporting agencies or credit bureaus) are companies that gather and sell information about an individual’s credit history; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S. The law applies to them as well as to banks, agencies that sell data about your medical records, check writing history, and rental history, and any companies that use credit reports to make hiring decisions.

The purpose of the FCRA is to protect consumers from misinformation that can be used against them, essentially guaranteeing Americans’ privacy and right to accurate and fair credit reporting. It lays out explicit guidelines and responsibilities for credit reporting agencies regarding the methods they use to collect and distribute your personal information.

What are my rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

The FCRA ensures that consumers have the following rights when it comes to their credit history information:

You have the right to be informed if the information in your file has been used against you.

If someone uses your credit report, other consumer report, or personal information to take an adverse action against you, such as denying an application for insurance, employment, or credit, they must inform you and also give you the name, address, and telephone number of the agency that provided the information.

You have the right to know what information is in your file.

If you provide proper identification, which may include your Social Security number, you can obtain a file disclosure that contains all of the information about you that a credit reporting agency has. In most cases this disclosure will be free, but you may have to pay a fee if there has been no adverse action taken against you because of your credit report, if you are not a victim of identity theft or don’t have a fraud alert on your file, if your file does not contain inaccuracies, if you are not on public assistance, and if you are employed. All consumers can request one free file disclosure every year from each nationwide credit bureau and/or from national specialty credit reporting agencies.

You have the right to ask for your credit score.

Your credit score is an indicator of your credit-worthiness; you can request this from credit reporting agencies that create or distribute scores, but you will likely have to pay for it (although you may be able to get it for free from the mortgage lender in some mortgage transactions).

You have the right to dispute misinformation in your file.

An FTC study conducted in 2012 showed that 25% of American consumers had an error on one of their credit reports, and 5% of those consumers were paying higher interest rates because of the misinformation. 10% of those consumers who disputed the errors ended up with better credit scores. Inaccurate information could be anything from a misspelling of a name to incorrect payment statuses to fraudulent accounts.

You have the right to dispute incomplete information in your file.

Inaccurate information is distinct from incomplete information. You can (and should) dispute both). The difference between them is important; your credit report may accurately show that a creditor sued you, but if you later paid what you owed and resolved the issue, and your credit report does not reflect that, the information is incomplete, and you can and should dispute it.

You have the right for inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information to be removed or corrected by the credit reporting agency.

If you find information that is incorrect or incomplete, the credit reporting agency must correct or complete it within 30-45 days. Sometimes misinformation can go undetected for years, though, if you do not check your credit regularly. The best way to move this along is to send a properly written dispute letter via certified mail to each credit bureau involved. An experienced consumer lawyer can help you with this process or advise you if your request is denied.

You have the right for outdated negative information to be withheld from reporting.

If negative information is more than seven years old, or if a bankruptcy is more than ten years old, your credit reporting agencies cannot report this in your file. Criminal information may remain indefinitely, however.

You have the right for credit reporting agencies to limit access to your file.

Credit reporting agencies are only supposed to give out your information to people with a valid need for access (those individuals or entities are specified in the FCRA). Usually, “valid need” includes consideration of an application by a creditor, insurer, employer, landlord, or other business.

You have the right for reports to be distributed to employers only with your written consent.

Employers or potential employers cannot have access to your information via a credit reporting agency without written consent from you. There are certain industries where there may be exceptions to this rule.

You have the right to limit “prescreened” offers for credit and insurance you get based on your report.

You do not have to deal with unsolicited offers for credit and insurance; all of the solicitations you get must include a toll-free phone number you can call to opt out and remove your name and address from mailing lists.

You have the right to place a security freeze on your credit report.

If you place a security freeze on your account, nothing is approved in your name without your consent, but controlling access to your credit report in this way may delay or interfere with application approvals for loans, credit, mortgages, or anything else that is credit related.

You have the right to place an initial or extended fraud alert on your credit report at no cost.

This can serve as an alternative to a security freeze; an initial fraud alert is a one year notice placed on a consumer’s credit file that requires businesses to take steps to verify the consumer’s identity before extending new credit. Extended fraud alerts last seven years.

You may have more rights depending on your state, your military relationships, and your identity theft history.

This list of rights are not exhaustive. If you want to know more about your rights under the FCRA, please visit https://www.consumerfinance.gov/learnmore/.

You have the right to seek damages from violators.

The FCRA is serious, and so is your credit. If a credit reporting agency or other business violated in any way the rights listed above, you may have a case for compensation and you may be able to sue in state or federal court.

An experienced FCRA lawyer will be able to advise you on credit related matters. If you need legal advice, call The Florida Law Group today to get your credit back on track! We fight for justice for you.