If you have ever applied for a credit card, a charge account, a loan, or a job, then there is a “consumer report” regarding your address, your employment, your bills, and whether you have been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. These reports are created and sold by Consumer Reporting Agencies or Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs).
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is designed to promote accuracy and to maintain the privacy of the information used in consumer reports. You may also have additional rights under state laws.
The following are answers to frequently asked questions about the FCRA:
Who has my credit report?
Typically, the three major credit bureaus have your credit report:
- Equifax, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241; (800) 685-1111; http://www.equifax.com
- Experian (formerly TRW), P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013; (888) EXPERIAN (397-3742);http://www.experian.com
- Trans Union, P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022; (800) 916-8800; http://www.transunion.com
Any person or company that has denied you credit, insurance, or employment due to your credit report must give you the name, address, and telephone number of the CRA that provided the report.
How can I find out what is in my report?
Just ask for it. The CRA must tell you about everything contained in your repor and, typically, must reveal the sources of its information. Also, the CRA also must give you a list of everyone who has requested your report within the past year (two years for employment related requests).
If a company takes adverse action against you (such as denying you credit, insurance, or employment) and you request your report within 60 days of the adverse action, then such company must give you a free copy of your report. Also, you are entitled to one free report a year if you are unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, if you are on welfare, or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud.
Can anyone else get a copy of my report?
No. Only people with a legitimate business need, as recognized by the FCRA. For example, a company is allowed to get your report if you apply for credit, insurance, or to rent an apartment. Your employer (or future employer) may do so only if you agree in writing.
Is there anything I can do about inaccurate or incomplete information?
Yes. Under the FCRA, both the CRA and the information provider have responsibilities for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To protect all your rights, you must dispute the report in writing:
- To the CRA: Describe the inaccurate information. The CRA must reinvestigate this information usually within 30 days (unless they consider your claim frivolous). They must also notify the creditor information provider which must then investigate the information and report its results. If the information turns out to be inaccurate, then the information provider must notify all nationwide CRAs to correct the information. When reinvestigation is complete, the CRA must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if there is a change. If an item is changed or removed, the CRA cannot put the disputed information back into your report unless the information provider verifies its accuracy and completeness. Further, the CRA must give you the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.
- To the Information Provider: Also write the creditor other information provider to inform them that you dispute an item. If the provider reports the item to any CRA, it must include a notice of your dispute. In addition, if your dispute is valid, then the information provider may not use the information again.
Keep a copy of everything you send to the CRAs and information providers. Also, it is recommended that you send all correspondence by registered mail, return receipt requested or certified mail.
What should I do if a CRA, user, or information provider violates my rights under the FCRA?
Contact your local attorney or report violations to the Federal Trade Commission.
Do I have the right to sue for damages?
Maybe. You may sue a CRA, a user, or an information provider in state or federal court for most violations of the FCRA. If you win, the defendant will have to pay damages and reimburse you for attorney fees to the extent ordered by the court. Here are the two relevant sections regarding liability for noncompliance with the FCRA:
§ 616. Civil liability for willful noncompliance