The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal statute that first became law on April 25, 1971.  The FCRA regulates the activities of consumer reporting agencies, the users of reports, and those who furnish information to CRAs.  The FCRA also provides consumers with remedies when they are affected by such reports.  The purpose of the FCRA is to promote the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies.  There are many types of consumer reporting agencies such as Trans Union, Equifax and Experian.  There also other types of consumer reporting agencies such as specialty agencies (agencies that run background checks for employers, rental history, medical insurance, and car insurance).

You have a right to know what information was used against you in your credit file.

If someone denies your application for credit, insurance, or employment – or they take another adverse action against you because of your credit file – that person must give you the name, address, and telephone of the agency that provided the information. You can then write to that agency to obtain a free copy of your report. You may be required to submit proper identification such as your driver’s license, social security card and a copy of a utility bill with your name and address on it in order to obtain a copy of the report.

You can dispute the inaccurate information in your credit report.

You can dispute information in your credit report by submitting a formal dispute in writing. The credit reporting agency must then conduct a reasonable investigation in response to your dispute and notify you in writing within 30 days (sometimes 45 days) of their dispute. Incomplete, inaccurate or unverifiable information must be removed or corrected within 30 days (sometimes 45 days). For more information on how to submit a dispute click on Correcting Your Credit Report.

Consumer reporting agencies cannot report outdated information on your credit report.

For the most part, consume reporting agencies cannot report negative information for more than seven years, and a bankruptcy should no longer be reporting on your credit after ten years.

Only certain people can access your credit file.

Only people who have a permissible purpose may access your credit files. Typically, a current creditor will have a permissible purpose. Other people may have a permissible purpose because you applied for credit card, insurance or because you entered into a business transaction with them.

Employers must have your consent in order to access your credit report.

A consumer reporting agency cannot provide your employer or prospective employer with your credit report unless you have given them written consent to access your credit report.

You may be able to sue violators of the FCRA for damages.

If someone has accessed your credit report and they did not have a permissible purpose you may be able to sue then for damages. If a credit reporting agency is reporting inaccurate information about you in your credit file or the consumer reporting agency fails to correct incomplete or inaccurate after you dispute such information you may be able to sue that credit reporting agency and the person who supply them with the inaccurate information. The FCRA allows a consumer to recover statutory damages, actual damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs.

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