Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

Here's a summary of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

By , Attorney

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) (15 U.S.C. § 1681 and following) regulates "consumer reporting agencies" and "consumer reports."

You have certain rights under the FCRA, including the right to access your credit file, the right to correct any inaccuracies in your credit reports, the right to seek damages against those who violate the law, and more.

What the FCRA Requires of Credit Bureaus and Companies That Give Them Information

The FCRA lays out the responsibilities for both consumer reporting agencies and those who furnish information to consumer reporting agencies.

Requirements for Credit Reporting Agencies

The FCRA requires consumer reporting agencies to adopt reasonable procedures for gathering, maintaining, and distributing information.

Requirements for Furnishers of Information

Regulations under the FCRA, effective as of July 1, 2010, require anyone furnishing information to consumer reporting agencies, including original creditors and debt collectors, to have reasonable policies and procedures for ensuring the accuracy and integrity of the information they report.

Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

Here's a summary of your main rights under the FCRA.

You Have the Right to Dispute the Accuracy and Completeness of Any Item in Your File

Under the FCRA, you have the right to dispute both the accuracy and the completeness of items in your file, not just inaccurate information. The distinction between accuracy and completeness can be important. For example, your credit report might state accurately that a creditor sued you. But this information might be incomplete because you later paid the debt, or were not actually liable for it. You can dispute the information about the lawsuit because it is incomplete. Inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information usually has to be removed or corrected within 30 or 45 days.

Consumer Reporting Agencies Can't Report Outdated Negative Information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 ten years old.

You Have the Right to Find Out What's in Your File

You have the right to get all the information about you contained in the files that a consumer reporting agency prepared, called a "file disclosure." Sometimes the file disclosure is free; other times, you might have to pay a fee. You can get one free credit report every 12 months upon request from each nationwide credit reporting agency. To get your free reports from any or all three nationwide credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion—contact the Annual Credit Report Service.

You can also get a free file disclosure in certain situations, like if:

  • someone takes an adverse action against you, like denying you credit, because of information in your credit report (you must ask for your report within 60 days after you receive notice about the adverse action)
  • you're a victim of identity theft, and you've put a fraud alert in your file
  • your file has inaccurate information because of fraud
  • you're on public assistance, or
  • you're unemployed, but you plan to apply for employment within 60 days.

Specialty credit reporting agencies also have to give you a free report every 12 months if you ask for it.

You Have the Right to Ask for a Credit Score

You may ask for your credit score from consumer reporting agencies that create or distribute scores, but you'll usually have to pay a fee for it. In certain mortgage transactions, though, you'll get your credit score from the lender for free.

If Information in Your Credit File Is Used Against You, the User Must Tell You

If someone uses your credit report or another type of consumer report to take some other adverse action against you—like denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment—they must let you know. They also have to give you the name, address, and telephone number of the agency that provided the information.

Employers Must Get Your Consent Before Getting Your Credit File

A consumer reporting agency generally can't give your file to your employer, or a potential employer, without your written consent.

You May Seek Damages From FCRA Violators

The FCRA lets you sue a credit reporting agency (or other person or entity that violates the law) for negligent or willful noncompliance with the law within two years after you discover the harmful behavior or within five years after the harmful behavior occurs, whichever is sooner.

Identity Theft Victims and Active-Duty Military Personnel Have Certain Rights

The FCRA provides certain rights for victims of identity theft and military personnel. For example, identity theft victims may ask businesses for a copy of transaction records (like credit applications) relating to the theft. Military personnel may place an active duty alert on their credit reports.

Getting Help

Many states have passed laws similar to the FCRA, some of which provide even greater protection for consumers than federal law. For more information about the FCRA or your state's laws, contact your state or local consumer protection agency, your state Attorney General, or a local attorney.

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