Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s credit reporting companies. It is designed to protect the integrity and privacy of your credit information. The FCRA requires credit reporting agencies, and the entities that report your credit information to them and others, ensure that your information is fair and accurate, and kept private. The FCRA protects your right to access and correct any inaccuracies in your credit report and provides you with remedies if a credit reporting agency or information furnisher violates your rights.
A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act
- You must be told if information in your file has been used against you- Anyone who uses a credit report or another type of consumer report to deny your application for credit, insurance, or employment – or to take another adverse action against you – must tell you, and must give you the name, address, and phone number of the agency that provided the information.
- You have the right to know what is in your file- You may request and obtain all the information about you in the files of a consumer reporting agency.
You have the right to ask for a credit score- Credit scores are numerical summaries of your credit-worthiness based on information from credit bureaus.
You have the right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information- If you identify information in your file that is incomplete or inaccurate, and report it to the consumer reporting agency, the agency must investigate unless your dispute is frivolous. Use this sample dispute letter.
Consumer reporting agencies may not report outdated negative information- In most cases, a consumer reporting agency may not report negative information that is more than seven years old, or bankruptcies that are more than 10 years old.
Consumer reporting agencies must correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information- Inaccurate, incomplete or unverifiable information must be removed or corrected, usually within 30 days. However, a consumer reporting agency may continue to report information it has verified as accurate.
- Access to your file is limited- A consumer reporting agency may provide information about you only to people with a valid need — usually to consider an application with a creditor,
insurer, employer, landlord, or other business.
- You must give your consent for reports to be provided to employers- A consumer reporting agency may not give out information about you to your employer, or a potential
employer, without your written consent given to the employer.
You may limit “prescreened” offers of credit and insurance you get based on information in your credit report.- Unsolicited “prescreened” offers for credit and insurance must include a toll-free phone number you can call if you choose to remove your name and address from the lists these offers are based on.
Identity theft victims and active duty military personnel have additional rights.
- You may seek damages from violators- If a consumer reporting agency, or, in some cases, a user of consumer reports or a furnisher of information to a consumer reporting agency violates the FCRA, you may be able to sue in state or federal court. Violations of these statutes require compensation to you for the damages suffered, plus an additional amount up to $1,000 per violation, plus punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs, and often more importantly, allow you to correct and protect your credit report in the future.