Fair Credit Reporting: Know Your Rights

Article by Sergei Lemberg

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was enacted by Congress in 1970 in order to allow consumers to have some sort of control over their credit report. After all, these reports affect our lives in many ways including the ability to rent a place to live, buy a car, get a credit card of other type of loan, or even to get a job. But unfortunately, many debt collectors ignore the rules of the FCRA, and use a consumer’s credit report as a way to scare them into paying a debt – even if that debt isn’t valid. For instance, there have been many reports of debt collectors telling consumers that if they don’t pay a debt immediately, they will put a bad mark on their report that day. Fortunately, you have rights. Follow along as we talk about your rights under the FCRA.

Your Right to Know What’s There

You can’t fight an incorrect mark on your credit report if you don’t even know it’s there, but the Fair Credit Reporting Act has made it law that you have access to each of your reports from the three reporting agencies every 12 months. This way, you can check to see if someone has placed a mark on your report that is negative or false. Don’t fall for some sites that advertise free reports and then try and charge you a fee – the official site will allow you to access your credit reports for free once a year.

Your Right to Know Why

If you’ve been turned down for credit, a job or a rental application, the Fair Credit Act gives you the right to request a report from the reporting agency that provided the report in order to find out why you were denied credit. You’ll be issued a letter of adverse action from the would-be lender, employer or landlord, and then you’ll have 60 calendar days from the date of that letter to request the report for free.

Your Right to Challenge Inaccurate Information

Sometimes the information on a credit report just isn’t right. This could be the result of identity theft, or rouge debt collectors who put inaccurate information on a report – such as reporting an old debt as new on your report. If you find such false information on your report, the FCRA gives you the right to dispute it. If you find inaccurate information on your credit report, you should write to the credit reporting agency and dispute it.

Your Right to Privacy

Not everyone who wants to look at your report is allowed to according to the FCRA. For instance, if your employer, or even would-be employer, wants access to your report, they’ll have to request permission from you. If you don’t want random credit card companies viewing your report in order to make you a “pre-approved” credit card offer, the FCRA gives you the right to opt out.

The Fair Credit Act has done a lot for consumers who have had to put up with credit reporting inconsistencies and rouge debt collectors for far too long. If you’re dealing with debt collectors, or simply want to ensure that your report is in good shape, find out your rights and take control of your credit today.

Sergei Lemberg, Esq. is the Principal of Lemberg & Associates, a law firm specializing in fair debt collection law, lemon law, and other consumer law.