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Consumer Rights: Access. Accuracy. Privacy.

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was put in place to protect the interests of consumers in credit affairs with various kinds of reporting agencies including credit bureaus, credit reporting agencies, and other entities that sell information about personal information such as medical records or rental history records.

Under the FCRA, you are guaranteed access to your credit file and credit score, information regarding any derogatory statements on your credit file, the ability to dispute any inaccuracies on your credit report (and have them corrected if found to be erroneous), limit access to your file, and so forth.

For a full description of all the rights defined by the FCRA, you can visit www.ftc.gov/credit, but here is a brief summary of each of the key elements:

Access:

You have the right to know what credit information is on your file. After you have provided proof of identity any consumer reporting agency is required to provide you with a copy of your credit report.

You are entitled to one free disclosure (or credit report) per twelve-month period from each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).

This disclosure is also provided free of charge if:

  • Someone has unfavorable action against you as a result of information in your credit report
  • You have been the victim of identity theft and have placed a fraud alert on your file
  • You have been the victim of fraud that has resulted in false information appearing in your file
  • You receive public assistance
  • You are currently unemployed, but anticipate applying for employment within a period of 60 days

You have the right to know if you have been denied credit, insurance, or employment because of information in your credit file. If any information in your file has been used against you, the person or entity that has taken action against you is obligated to disclose to you the name, address, and phone number of the agency that provided the information in question.

You have the right to know your credit score. You may request a credit score from a consumer credit reporting agency, but there will be a cost associated with the request.

Accuracy:

You have the right to dispute inaccuracies on your credit report. If you find information on your credit report that you believe to be erroneous, you have the right to ask the reporting agency to investigate the issue. The agency is obligated to investigate your dispute, contact the creditor on your behalf, and report back to you on the resolution.

You have the right to have inaccurate information on your credit report remedied or removed. If your dispute is verified and the information is confirmed to be inaccurate, the reporting agency is obligated to correct or delete the misinformation. In cases where the creditor does not respond within the allotted amount of time (usually 30 days, but sometimes up to 45 days), the information in question is considered “unverified” and will be removed from your credit file.

You have the right to an up-to-date credit file. Typically, consumer reporting agencies are not allowed to provide negative information that is more than seven years old. In addition, bankruptcies that are older than ten years should not appear on your credit report.

Privacy:

You have the right to know that only those with a valid need will be granted access to your credit information. The FCRA specifies that only people with a “valid need” may have access to your credit information. This usually refers to people or entities that are considering your application for credit, insurance, employment, rental, or some other related business.

You have the right to require your consent for the release of credit information to future or current employers. Consumer reporting agencies must have your written consent to release credit information to your current or potential employer. (Exception: In the trucking industry, written consent is not typically required.)

You have the right to remove your name and address from “prescreened” offer lists. You may opt-out from unsolicited credit and insurance offers that you receive based on information in your credit report. The company extending the offer is obligated to include a toll-free number on the offer materials, which you can call if you would like to remove yourself from the list that drives these offers. You may also opt-out with the nationwide credit bureaus by calling 1-888-5OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).


In addition to access, accuracy, and privacy, you also have the right to seek damages from any consumer reporting agency that violates these rights. If an agency, the person using credit information provided by an agency, or the person who has provided information to a consumer reporting agency violates any part of the FCRA, you may be able to sue in either state or federal court.

Also, if you are in the military services and on active duty, you have additional rights in cases that involve identity theft. (Visit www.ftc.gov/credit for more details.)

 Finally, please note that different states have their own consumer reporting laws. Depending on where you live, you may have additional rights under state law. To learn about these rights, contact your local consumer protection agency or your state’s Attorney General.

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