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What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is covered by 15 U.S. Code §1681. It promotes accuracy, privacy, and fairness and prevents inaccurate information and abuse when it comes to reporting consumers’ credit and financial histories.
Who Does the FCRA Protect?
The FCRA gives you several rights concerning credit bureaus and agencies that deal with medical records, rental histories, loan documents, and check writing histories. These protections are crucial because your credit history and score are significant in enabling – or preventing – you from finding affordable housing, being approved for a mortgage, purchasing a car, obtaining loans, and more.
Your Rights Under the FCRA
The FCRA establishes several rights that should be respected.
To Know Your Credit History
You have a right to request and obtain your file from agencies like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You are entitled to one free disclosure every 12 months and a free disclosure under certain circumstances, such as if you have been a victim of identity theft or if you are on public assistance.
The pandemic has allowed consumers to access a free report once a week, but it’s unclear how long this will last. You may need to pay to obtain your entire credit history in some situations.
To Know Your Credit Score
You have a right to request your credit score from a consumer reporting agency. Some will provide it for free under certain circumstances. However, obtaining your credit score may require you to pay a fee.
To Know When It Has Been Used Against You
Suppose a company uses a credit report or other type of consumer report to deny an application for a job, credit card, loan, or insurance. In that case, that company must tell you this and give you the name and contact information of the agency that provided the information.
To Dispute Incorrect or Incomplete Information
If you find information on your credit history is not accurate or complete, you can dispute it with the consumer reporting agency. The agency must investigate the situation. If there is inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information on your file, the agency usually has to remove it within 30 days.
Being denied any of these violates the FCRA, and you may be able to take legal action to pursue compensation. Call 888-726-3181 for a free, no-risk & no-obligation consultation.
Not Just Any Debt Attorney
As a founding partner at LHA, Jeremiah E. Heck is a leader in consumer law. He knows how to identify FCRA violations and help resolve the matter in your favor.
“I had a great experience and I highly recommend this firm. I worked with Jeremiah Heck and he treated my case with integrity, professionalism and was responsive to me and explained the terms of my case in a manner that was easy to understand.”
Actions Prohibited by the FCRA
In addition to giving consumers rights, the FCRA limits what reporting agencies can and can’t do. This ensures you cannot be discriminated against or abused based on your financial history or credit rating.
Reporting Outdated/Negative Info
In most cases, an agency cannot report negative information over seven years old for chapter 7 bankruptcies, more than 10 years for chapter 13 bankruptcies, and 7 years for prior civil judgments. Information older than that is considered obsolete. You may have to be proactive about ensuring old information drops off because some companies do not follow the mandates of the FCRA.
Offering Access to Your File
Often referred to as impermissible use, agencies can only provide information about your history to people or businesses with a valid need to see it, such as a landlord, employer, lender, or insurer. Individuals and businesses without an actual need to see your credit history must be denied access unless you grant permission.
Giving an Employer Your History Without Permission
If your current or a potential employer wishes to see your credit report, you must give written permission. The main exception is the trucking industry. The agency cannot provide your file to an employer without written authorization.
Common FCRA Violations
Despite clear regulations surrounding credit reporting and the actions of credit agencies, violations are common. Some of the most common Fair Credit Reporting Act violations are found in debt settlement mailers but may include any of the following:
- Reporting an account that you voluntarily closed as active
- Reporting on a debt that is more than seven years old
- Reporting a bankruptcy that is more than 10 years old
- Failing to report that debt has been discharged
- Reporting an inaccurate balance due
- Reporting a timely payment as late
- Failing to remove information that resulted from identity theft
- Reporting information derived from a stranger’s history because that person has a similar Social Security Number
- Reporting information based on a stranger’s history because you have similar first and/or last names
- Failing to investigate a dispute
- Failing to remove information within 30 days if it has not been verified
- Providing a credit report to an individual or business who does not have a valid need without your permission.
How to Report FCRA Violations
If a credit agency violates the FCRA, you can file a complaint against them in court. However, there is a time limitation, called a statute of limitations, for when you can file a lawsuit under the FCRA.
You have two years after the date that you discover the violation or five years after the date of the actual violation. If you miss this deadline, you will forfeit your ability to recover compensation for the violation of your rights.
Damages for FCRA Violations
If you can prove that the FCRA has been violated, you may be entitled to compensation. Here are the possible financial penalties for an FCRA violation:
This would be any money you lost due to the violation. For example, if you lost your job as a result of improper viewing of your credit report, then you might be able to sue for lost wages. There is no limit on how much money you can get for actual damages.
The FCRA has a law built into it that indicates you can get between $100 and $1,000 for violations of your FCRA rights, regardless of if the violation harmed you financially. Suppose the violator was an individual who lied to get your credit report or used it for improper purposes. In that case, you can get either your actual, provable damages or $1,000, whichever is greater.
Punitive damages are not meant to compensate you for losses. Instead, they punish the wrongdoer. The amount of punitive damages will be up to the court’s discretion.
Attorneys’ Fees and Costs
The FCRA allows the victim of an FCRA violation to recover money for attorneys’ fees and costs.
Legal Help in Ohio
If you suspect that an FCRA violation is impacting you, LHA serves consumer law clients in all 88 Ohio counties:
- New Philadelphia
Call LHA Today: 888-726-3181
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Should I Use a Lawyer for an FCRA Violation?
You have a right to protect your rights and privacy regarding your financial history. A debt lawyer who fully understands the FCRA can review your case and determine if your rights have been violated. If so, they can file an FCRA lawsuit against the offending party and recover compensation.
What If I See Errors on My Credit Report?
If the information on your credit history is not accurate, you should dispute it with the consumer reporting agency. The agency must investigate and usually must remove mistakes within 30 days.
How Do I Get a Free Credit Report?
Most credit agencies will provide a free version of your credit report at least once a year and in certain situations upon request. However, in some cases, a fee to access your credit report may be required.