Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is designed to promote accuracy,
fairness, and privacy of information in the files of every consumer
maintained by a credit reporting agency--CRA. The law was significantly
amended by the 1996 Congress. The changes took effect September
Most credit bureaus
gather and sell information about you -- such as if you pay your
bills on time or have filed bankruptcy -- to creditors, employers,
landlords, and other businesses. You may not know that check verification
companies and tenant screening firms, as well as the Medical Information
Bureau, are all credit bureaus. You can find the complete text of
the FCRA at the Federal Trade Commission's web site (http://www.ftc.gov).
Consumers must be told
if information in your file has been used against you. Anyone who
uses information from a CRA to take action against you -- such as
denying an application for credit, insurance, or employment -- must
tell you, and give you the name, address, and phone number of the
CRA that provided the consumer report, plus disclose your right
to a free report after denial.
Consumers can find out
what is in their own credit files. At your request, a CRA must give
you the information in your file, and a list of everyone who has
requested it recently. There is no charge for the report if a person
has taken action against you because of information supplied by
the CRA, if you request the report within 60 days of receiving notice
of the action. Consumers also are entitled to one free report every
twelve months upon request if you certify that (1) you are unemployed
and plan to seek employment within 60 days, (2) you are on welfare,
or (3) your report is inaccurate due to fraud. Otherwise, a CRA
may charge you up to eight dollars, unless you live in a free or
low cost report state. Of course, if denied credit, you can request
additional free reports under federal law in these states.
Consumers may dispute
inaccurate information with the CRA. If you tell a CRA that your
file contains inaccurate information, the CRA must investigate the
items (usually within 30 days) by presenting to its information
source all relevant evidence you submit, unless your dispute is
frivolous. The source must review your evidence and report its findings
to the CRA. (The source also must advise national CRAs -- to which
it has provided the data -- of any error.) The CRA must give you
a written report of the investigation, and a copy of your report
if the investigation results in any change. If the CRA's investigation
does not resolve the dispute, you may add a brief statement to your
file. The CRA must normally include a summary of your statement
in future reports. If an item is deleted or a dispute statement
is filed, you may ask that anyone who has recently received your
report be notified of the change.
must be corrected or deleted. A CRA must remove or correct inaccurate
or unverified information from its files, usually within 30 days
after you dispute it. However, the CRA is not required to remove
accurate data from your file unless it is outdated (as described
below) or cannot be verified. If your dispute results in any change
to your report, the CRA cannot reinsert into your file a disputed
item unless the information source verifies its accuracy and completeness.
In addition, the CRA must give you a written notice telling you
it has reinserted the item. The notice must include the name, address
and phone number of the information source.
Consumers may dispute
inaccurate items with the source of the information. If you tell
anyone -- such as a creditor who reports to a CRA -- that you dispute
an item, they may not then report the information to a CRA without
including a notice of your dispute. In addition, once you've notified
the source of the error in writing, it may not continue to report
the information if it is, in fact, an error. Outdated information
may not be reported. In most cases, a CRA may not report negative
information that is more than seven years old; ten years for bankruptcies.
Your consent is required
for reports that are provided to employers, or reports that contain
medical information. A CRA may not give out information about you
to your employer, or prospective employer, without your written
consent. A CRA may not report medical information about you to creditors,
insurers, or employers without your permission. An employer considering
adverse action must show you the report.
Consumers may seek damages
from violators. If a CRA, a user or (in some cases) a provider of
CRA data, violates the FCRA, you may sue them in state or federal
Doctors” are strictly regulated under the new law. Their promises
that they can "change your social security number" to
hide your negative credit background are illegal. Don't give credit
doctors your money, use it to pay your bills and rebuild your credit.
The new law also gives
big banks the right to share your credit report and other information
with "affiliates." Your mutual fund may be owned by a
bank that will make a credit card offer to you, for example. Those
banks that desire to take advantage of "affiliate-sharing"
must send you a onetime offer to opt-out. The law does not require
that this notice be very clear. You may have received it and tossed
it, or never noticed it. They're not required to have toll-free
numbers. We encourage you to opt-out. Shop around when you need
financial products instead of letting your own bank send you mediocre
offers. You'll need to send your bank a letter stating that you
want to exercise your FCRA right to opt-out of information sharing
For more information
about errors on your credit report, other fact sheets and helpful
information are available on our Web site: http://www.financial-education-icfe.org
OR Send an email question to: firstname.lastname@example.org
OR Send a SASE to:
PO Box 34070
San Diego, CA 92163-4070
The ICFE's "Do-It-Yourself
Credit File Correction Guide" is still available in ENGLISH
or SPANISH for $10 (+$2 postage). Included are step-by-step instructions,
answers to the most often asked questions, consumer credit rights,
sample letters to use when communicating with the various credit
reporting agencies about credit file questions and difficulties
and much more. Send $10 (+$2 postage) to: ICFE Credit
Guides U.S. PO Box 34070, San Diego, CA 92163. Consumers may learn
more on the Internet about the ICFE and the "Do-It-Yourself
Credit File Correction Guide" by visiting: www.financial-education-icfe.org.
About the ICFE:
The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation). The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely.
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.
The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.The ICFE was an active partner in the California Student Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) which resulted in a new web site: (studentdebthelp.org). CASDRAP disbanded in 2010, shortly after the web site project was completed. In 2011 the ICFE assumed the single sponsorship of the (studentdebthelp.org) web site and is now responsible for its content and operation.
The ICFE is also an on-line help for consumers who spend too much. ICFE's spending help was featured in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.
Visit the ICFE's other web sites at: www.financial-education-icfe.org and studentdebthelp.org. Both sites helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G, a free eNews, and an online resource center for students, parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools and a book store.