We understand that your credit report is extremely significant. Your report and credit score determine your ability to obtain home mortgages, vehicle loans, student loans, employment and more. As a result, it is important to know who is reviewing your credit report and what information is being reported. In order to protect consumers and their credit report information, the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA") was enacted. There are two main issues that the FCRA addresses, that are important to you as a consumer:
Access of a credit report without a permissible purpose.
Inaccurate reporting of information.
As a consumer, you should check your credit report at least once per year to see if anyone has impermissibly accessed your credit report and to ensure that all reported information is correct. The three major credit reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. You can access your credit report for free every 12 months by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. This website will allow you to pull your reports from all three major credit reporting agencies.
The FCRA has limited the use of consumer reports to protect a consumer’s privacy. In order to access a consumer report, the entity or person access the report must have a permissible purpose. In many cases it is in connection with a consumer’s application for credit or for employment purposes, both cases in which the consumer provides consent. A user can also access a consumer report if ordered by a court or federal grand jury. In situations where the consumer has not consented or there is no court order, the FCRA has determined that a user may access a credit report for the following permissible purpose:
- To make a firm offer of credit
- To make a firm offer of insurance
If your credit has been accessed by anyone without a permissible purpose, you may be entitled to damages, including statutory damages between $100 and $1000, any actual damages, attorney fees and punitive damages.
Your creditors are responsible for reporting your accounts to the credit reporting agencies. The FCRA requires your creditors to report this information accurately. Inaccurate information could harm your credit and prevent you from being approved for a mortgage, much need loan or line of credit, and could result in much higher interest rates. If you have pulled your credit reports and notice that the information being reported is incorrect, you need to take action. The first step is to dispute the inaccurate information with the credit reporting agency. Once a dispute is received by the agency, they inform the creditor of the dispute. The creditor will then either verify that the information is correct, or will inform the agency that the information is incorrect. If the information is incorrect, it should then your credit report should be immediately updated. This process must be completed within 30 days of the dispute being received.
The dispute process can be daunting as you may need to dispute more than once before the information is corrected, or you need to take legal action. We can assist you with the dispute process and pursing any claim against the creditor if necessary. Again, if the creditor is violating the FCRA, you may be entitled to statutory damages between $100 and $1000, any actual damages, attorney fees and punitive damages.