Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a United States law meant to regulate the collection, distribution, and use of customer information. It was made to promote the accuracy and privacy of information in consumer reporting agency (CRA) files. Some of these files probably contain information about you (i.e. your bill payments, bankruptcy files, etc.), and the CRAs gather and sell this information to creditors, employers, landlords, and other businesses.

You may now be wondering exactly what your rights are under this act. Your information is being sold, and you should know exactly what you can do to prevent damage to your credit and  future as well as fix any current credit problems. The FCRA gives you specific rights, but you may have additional rights based on your state laws. The following are the federal rights you have as an American under the FCRA.

You must be informed if your credit information is used against you. Anyone attempting to use your credit information to take action against you has to tell you their intentions and give you the name, address, and phone number of the CRA that collected the report.

You have the right to see what is in your file. If you request your information, a CRA must give you your file as well as a list of everyone who has requested the information recently. Your report should be free of charge if someone has taken action against you as long as you request the report within 60 days of learning about the action. You are also allowed one free credit report every twelve months if you can show that you are unemployed and plan to look for employment within 60 days, you are on welfare, or your report is not accurate because of fraud. If you cannot prove any of these, a CRA can charge you up to eight dollars for your report.

You have the right to dispute inaccurate information with a CRA. If you tell them that your file has inaccurate information, the CRA has to investigate your claim by presenting the evidence you give to their source of information. This should usually happen within 30 days of your claim. The source must then investigate and report back to the CRA. The source also informs errors to national CRAs. Your CRA must give you a report of the investigation and a new copy of your report if any changes are made. If this investigation does not resolve your dispute, you have the right to add a statement to your file. From this point on, the CRA must include a summary of your statement in your report. If something is deleted or if you file a statement on your dispute, you can ask that the CRA informs anyone who has recently received your report of the change.

All inaccurate information in your report must be promptly corrected or deleted. However, the CRA is not required to remove accurate data from your file unless the information is outdated or cannot be verified. If your report is changed because of a dispute, the CRA cannot put the disputed item back into your file unless it is verified as accurate and complete. The CRA must also give you written notice if they should place the item back into your file. This notice needs to include the name, address, and phone number of the information source.

You can dispute inaccurate information with the source of that information as well. If you tell someone (i.e. a creditor who reports to a CRA) that you disagree with an item, they cannot report that information to a CRA without including a notice of your dispute. Once you have notified the source of the disputed information in writing, they may not report that information if it is false.

As stated above, outdated information may not be reported either. A CRA cannot report negative information that is more than seven years old in normal cases, and in bankruptcy cases, they may not report negative information after ten years.

Contrary to how you may feel, access to your file is limited. A CRA can only provide information about you to specific people who are recognized by the FCRA. Only the people who need to see your information will be able to gain access to your file.

Information provided to employers or reports with your medical information may only be given with your consent. A CRA cannot give your information to your employer or a prospective employer without your knowledge or permission. Your consent is also needed before creditors, insurers, or employers can gain access to your medical information.

You have the right to exclude your name from CRA lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers if you so choose. Some creditors and insurers use file information to send you offers for credit or insurance. If you receive these offers, they need to include a toll-free phone number for you to use if you would like to remove your name and address from their lists. When you make this call, you must be off of these lists for at least two years. If you would like to take your information off of these lists forever, you may fill out and submit a form to the CRA.

Finally, you have the right to seek damages from violators. If a CRA, the user or provider of the CRA data violates any term in the FCRA, you may sue them in state or federal court.

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