Do You Know What Your Rights Are Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
The Act grants several rights and protections to American consumers
You may already know that you have the right to a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once per year. But did you know that you have this right because of a federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)—and that the law also grants you even more rights and protections?
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the FCRA "promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies." In order to do this, as The Simple Dollar notes, the law grants consumers certain rights and protections, as listed below:
Free Credit Reports
The FCRA gives you the right to request one free credit report from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax every year. All you have to do is go to AnnualCreditReport.com, the website created under the FCRA for consumers to request their free report.
You may also be able to request a free credit report in any of the following situations:
- Your identity has been stolen and you have put a fraud alert on your credit file
- Information on your credit report has led someone, such as a lender, to deny your application for credit
- You are currently unemployed but are planning to apply for work at some point within the next two months
- You receive public assistance
Under the FCRA, you can dispute inaccurate information on your credit reports. When a credit reporting bureau receives your dispute, it has 30 days (in some cases, 45 days) to investigate. When it completes the investigation, the item being disputed must be either verified as accurate, corrected, or deleted from the report.
Furthermore, the bureau has to tell you what the results of its investigation were regardless of whether the items were accurate or not.
Protecting Your Credit Card Numbers
According to the FTC, the FCRA requires that credit card receipts can only list shortened account numbers to prevent the card owner's identity from being stolen. This is why several account numbers are replaced by astericks or X's on the receipt.
Who Can Access Your Credit Reports?
The FCRA determines who is allowed to access your reports. Access can be granted to other parties under these circumstances:
- You are allowed to access your own reports as often as you want, though you may be charged a fee if you have already requested all of your free reports
- Your reports may be accessed if you apply for a loan, credit card, or new insurance policy. In such situations, lenders and insurance providers are allowed to request your credit report
- Your report may be accessed if a court order has been issued
- Employers can request your credit reports as part of their screening process, but only if you provide written consent
- If you have an account with a creditor, the account provider can access your reports as part of the process of managing your account
Pre-Approved to Opt Out
If you're like most people, you've probably gotten more pre-approved credit card offers in the mail than you could—or should—ever use.
Don't want such offers? You have the right to opt out of receiving them by going to the official OptOutPrescreen website. This is completely free and can save you a lot of irritation.
A Time Limit
The law limits how long negative information can stay on your credit reports. Although there are a few negative items that can stay on the reports forever—such as unpaid tax liens or unpaid federal student loans—most have to be removed after seven to 10 years.
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