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FCRA: Fair Credit Reporting Act

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The purpose of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is to secure consumer rights for credit. All the nationwide credit bureaus and specialty credit reporting agencies should abide by the laws stated under FCRA. Few important parts of FCRA are discussed below in an effort to make you aware of your basic credit rights as consumer.

Right to know what is there in your credit file

Basically creditors report about your credit performance to the major credit bureaus to assist them maintain a record of your credit practice in details. Now FCRA says that you have the right to see your credit report. Consumer reporting agencies should provide all the information they have about you, once you request for it. The process is known as File Disclosure. However, you have to show some proof for identification like your social security number in order to get a free copy of your credit file. You are entitled for free file disclosure if:

  • You are receiving Public Assistance.

  • You were a victim of Identity Theft and placed a fraud alert.

  • You dispute wrong or incorrect information in your credit file and the item is removed at the end of the investigation.

  • You are unemployed at present but going to apply for employment within next 60 days.

  • Someone has taken negative action against you on the basis of the information on your credit report, which might include refusal of your credit request, declining your employment application or any other adverse action.

Moreover, consumers are entitled to receive free disclosure once in a year from nationwide credit bureaus and nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies on a request with valid proof of identification.

Right to know whether the information in your credit file went against you

If your credit information is the reason behind the denial of your credit request or refusal of employment, you have the right to know the reason and the concerned person or the authority should also provide you the name, address and phone number of the agency they collected the information from.

Right to dispute incorrect or incomplete information

If you find any erroneous or incomplete information on your credit report, you can dispute the item with the consumer reporting agency. The agency is supposed to open an investigation, provided your argument does not seem baseless. The wrong, incomplete or unverifiable items should be removed from your credit report generally within 30 days. However, if the dispute is investigated as correct, CRA can continue reporting it.

Negative information reporting time

Consumer reporting agencies cannot report any negative information for more than 7 years and bankruptcies for more than 10 years. If it does not drop out within this time frame, consumers can dispute the item. The bad credit reporting period may differ for the states having own credit reporting laws.

Limited access to your credit file for third persons

FCRA has pointed out few entities that might have definite need to view your credit file, few to name them are creditor, insurer, landlord, employer. However, you may require giving written consent to your employer or future employer to pull your credit report.

OPT-OUT opportunity

You can stop unsolicited credit and insurance offers by selecting opt-out option with major credit bureaus. In addition, pre-screened or pre-approved credit offers should always list a toll free number so that you can request to remove your name from the creditors’ database.

Your right to sue the violators of FCRA

If you find a consumer reporting agency, a user, like creditor, your employer etc, violating the FCRA laws, you can sue them at state court or federal court for up to the damage caused.

To know the FCRA in details please view this pdf document provided at US Federal Trade Commission's website (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader). Additionally few states enforce their own laws for credit reporting, which enable consumers with more options. You should contact Consumer Protection Office or Attorney General's Office of your state to know all the alternatives in details.


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