The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was enacted to protect consumers’ in the collection, reporting, access and dissemination of credit reporting information. Today, a consumer’s credit report is one of the most important identifiers for an individual. A credit report and / or credit score is oftentimes used to grant credit, as a background check is used for employment, for insurance underwriting purposes, and in many other circumstances. It is important for a consumer to maintain the accuracy of his or her report, and to ensure a person or a company is not impermissibly accessing their credit reports. The FCRA is the key tool in correcting inaccurate information, ensuring there are no breaches of a consumer’s privacy and taking a company that violates the requirements of the FCRA to task.
Although the FCRA covers a great many areas, there are two distinct areas of law for which you might want to consult a consumer law attorney.
- If a person or company has accessed your credit report without your authorization or without a permissible purpose.
- If a company is furnishing the credit bureaus with inaccurate information.
The FCRA provides a private cause of action for the conduct described above; however, the act is complex, and certain actions must be taken in order to trigger the private cause of action for inaccurate information on your credit report. Namely, you must dispute the inaccurate information with the three major credit bureaus (assuming it is inaccurate on all three reports) which are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. The FCRA also requires the three major credit bureaus to allow a consumer access to his or her consumer report at least once a year with no charge. You are able to access all three reports at annualcreditreport.com, and it is wise to carefully review these reports at least once a year.If you are able to prove a company knowingly violated the FCRA, you are entitled to between $100 and $1,000 in statutory damages, any actual damages, attorney fees and possibly even punitive damages.