The purpose of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S. Code §1681, is to promote accuracy, privacy, and fairness as well as to prevent inaccurate information and abuse when it comes to reporting consumers’ credit and financial histories. It is above all a consumer protection law, which gives you a number of rights in regard to credit bureaus and specialty agencies that deal with medical records, rental histories, loan documents, and check writing histories. These protections and rights are crucial because your credit history and score are significant in enabling – or preventing – you from finding affordable rental housing, being approved for a mortgage, purchasing a car, obtaining educational loans, and more.
If you believe a consumer reporting agency, credit bureau, or other relevant business is guilty of FCRA violations, contact an Ohio debt help lawyer from Luftman, Heck & Associates as soon as possible.
Your Rights Under the FCRA
There are a number of affirmative rights provided to you under the FCRA. Some of these protections include:
- Knowing what is in your credit history. You always have the right to request and obtain your file from consumer reporting agencies. You are entitled to one free disclosure every 12 months from each national consumer reporting agency and a free disclosure under certain circumstances, such as if you have been the victim of identity theft or you are on public assistance. In some situations, you may need to pay a fee to obtain your full credit history file from an agency.
- Knowing your credit score. You always have the 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 often requires you pay a fee.
- Knowing if your credit history has been used against you. For example, if a company uses a credit or other type of consumer report to deny an application for a job, credit card, loan, or insurance, that company must tell you this and give you the name and contact information of the agency that provided the information.
- Disputing incorrect or incomplete information. If you find that information in your credit history is not accurate or complete, then you can dispute this with the consumer reporting agency. That agency must investigate the situation. If there is inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information in your file, the agency usually has to remove it within 30 days.
If you are denied any of these rights by an agency, you may be able to take legal action and obtain compensation. To learn more, speak with a debt help attorney from Luftman, Heck & Associates as soon as possible. The longer you wait to ask for legal advice and help, the longer an agency has to severely damage your financial situation and future.
Actions the FCRA Prohibits
The FCRA not only gives you affirmative rights and actions you can take, it also limits what consumer reporting agencies can do. This is to ensure that you cannot be discriminated against or abused based on your financial history or credit rating. These provisions state that reporting agencies cannot:
- Report outdated negative information. In most cases, an agency cannot report negative information that is more than 7 years old for bankruptcies, or more than 10 years old for civil judgments, because it is considered obsolete. You may have to be proactive about ensuring old information drops off of your reports. Agencies have a tendency to not be proactive about removing outdated information unless it is brought to their attention.
- Offer access to your file to just anyone. You have the right to keep your financial history somewhat private. 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 or businesses without an actual need to view your credit history must be denied access unless you grant permission.
- Give an employer or potential 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 for the trucking industry. Without written permission, the agency cannot provide your file.
Common FCRA Violations
If you experience one of these situations or another form of mistreatment, contact a debt relief attorney right away. Common FCRA violations by consumer reporting agencies include:
- Reporting an account that you voluntarily closed as active
- Reporting on a debt that is more than 7 years old
- Reporting a bankruptcy that is more than 10 years old
- Failing to report that a 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 or last names
- Failing to reasonably 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 an Ohio Debt Help Lawyer Can Protect You
If you believe a consumer reporting agency has violated the FCRA, you should contact attorney Jeremiah Heck of Luftman, Heck & Associates as soon as possible. There are multiple actions you can take such as filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You may also have the right to seek damages in state or federal court against an agency if you were seriously harmed by the agencies FCRA violation. During a lawsuit, you can seek your actual damages, which include any income you lost, attorney’s fees, and court costs. If the agency’s actions were egregious, you may also ask for punitive damages.
Dealing with debt or a less-than-perfect financial history is often stressful and overwhelming. The last thing you need is to be treated unfairly by a creditor or credit reporting agency. No matter your background, you deserve to have your rights fully observed and protected.
For more information, call Jeremiah Heck of Luftman, Heck & Associates at or contact us online.