The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). There are many types of CRAs including credit bureaus and specialty agencies (such as agencies that sell information about check writing histories, medical records, and rental history records). Here is a summary of your major rights under the FCRA.
You must be told if information in your file has been used against you.
Anyone who uses a credit report or another type of consumer report to deny your application for credit, insurance, or employment – or to take another adverse action against you – must tell you, and must give you the name, address, and phone number of the agency that provided the information.
You have the right to know what is in your file.
You may request and obtain all the information about you in the files of a CRA (your “file disclosure”). You will be required to provide proper identification, which may include your Social Security number. Your disclosure, a.k.a. credit report, will be free or no more than $13.00 per CRA (2021 limit). See, how to Order Credit Report.
You are entitled to a free file disclosure if 1) a person has taken adverse action against you because of information in your credit report; 2) you are the victim of identity theft and place a fraud alert in your file; 3) your file contains inaccurate information as a result of fraud; 4) you are on public assistance; 5) you are unemployed, but expect to apply for employment within 60 days.
Also, all consumers are entitled to one free disclosure every 12 months upon request from each nationwide credit bureau and from nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies. Temporarily, every week through April 2021 due to 2020 CARES Act. See, how to Order Credit Report.
You have the right to ask for a credit score.
Credit scores are numerical summaries of your credit worthiness based on information from credit bureaus. You may request a credit score from CRAs that create scores or distribute scores used in residential real property loans, but you will have to pay for it. In some mortgage transactions, you will receive credit score information for free from the mortgage Broker or lender. To learn more, see Credit Scoring & Grading.
You have the right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information. [Correcting Errors]
1) If you identify information in your file that is incomplete or inaccurate, and report it to the CRA, the agency must investigate unless your dispute is considered frivolous.
Begin the process by ordering your credit report – see Order Credit Report. No matter which means you select to obtain your report, you will be provided with a formal Dispute form. This is the mechanism in which you tell the CRA, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Feel free to use the FTC Sample Dispute Letter.
Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document what the credit reporting company received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
CRAs are required to investigate the items in question — usually within 30 days, unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the CRA, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the CRA. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide CRAs so they can correct the information in your file.
When the investigation is complete, the CRA must give you the results in writing and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. This free report does not count as your annual free report. If an item is changed or deleted, the CRA cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The CRA also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.
If you ask, the credit reporting company must send notices of any corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months. You can have a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
If the investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the CRA to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past, but you’ll pay a fee for this service.
2) Rather than, or in addition to, your dispute with the CRA, you can inform the information provider directly (that is, the person, company, or organization that provided information about you to a credit reporting company), in writing, that you dispute an item in your credit report. Use same FTC Sample Dispute letter noted above. Same as before, include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. If the provider listed an address on your credit report, send your letter to that address. If no address is listed, contact the provider and ask for the correct address to send your letter. If the information provider does not give you an address, you can send your letter to any business address for that provider.
Once formally notified, the information provider may not report the information to a CRA without including a notice of your dispute. And, once their investigation is complete and it’s been determined that there is indeed an error, the information provider must tell the CRA to update or delete the item.
Consumer reporting agencies must correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information.
Inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information must be removed or corrected, usually within 30 days. However, a CRA may continue to report information it has verified as accurate.
Consumer reporting agencies may not report outdated negative information.
In most cases, a CRA may not report negative information that is more than seven years old, or bankruptcies or foreclosures that are more than 10 years old.
Access to your file is limited.
A CRA may provide information about you only to people with a valid need – usually to consider an application with a creditor, insurer, employer, landlord, or other business. The FCRA specifies those with a valid need for access.
You must give your consent for reports to be provided to employers.
A consumer reporting agency may not give out information about you to your employer, or a potential employer, without your written consent given to the employer.
You may limit “pre-screened” offers of credit and insurance you get based on information in your credit report.
Unsolicited “pre-screened” offers for credit and insurance must include a toll-free phone number you can call if you choose to remove your name and address form the lists these offers are based on. You may opt out with the nationwide credit bureaus at 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).
-- CONSUMERS HAVE THE RIGHT TO OBTAIN A SECURITY FREEZE --
At no cost, you have a right, to place a “security freeze” on your credit report, which will prohibit a CRA from releasing information in your credit report without your express authorization. The security freeze is designed to prevent credit, loans, and services from being approved in your name without your consent.
However, you should be aware that using a security freeze to take control over who gets access to the personal and financial information in your credit report may delay, interfere with, or prohibit the timely approval of any subsequent request or application you make regarding a new loan, credit, mortgage, or any other account involving the extension of credit.
A security freeze does not apply to a person or entity, or its affiliates, or collection agencies acting on behalf of the person or entity with which you have an existing account that requests information in your credit report for the purposes of reviewing or collecting the account. Reviewing the account includes activities related to account maintenance, monitoring, credit line increases, and account upgrades and enhancements.
-- CONSUMERS HAVE THE RIGHT TO INCLUDE A FRAUD ALERT --
At no cost, as an alternative to, or in addition to, a security freeze, you have the right to place an initial or extended fraud alert on your credit file. An initial fraud alert is a one-year alert that is placed on a consumer’s credit file. Upon seeing a fraud alert display on a consumer’s credit file, a business is required to take steps to verify the consumer’s identity before extending new credit. If you are a victim of identity theft, you are entitled to an extended fraud alert, which is a fraud alert lasting seven years.
Identity theft victims and active duty military personnel have additional rights.
You may seek damages from violators.
In some cases, you may have more rights under state law. For more information, contact your state or local consumer protection agency or your state Attorney General. States may enforce the FCRA, and many states have their own consumer reporting laws.
You also may seek damages directly from violators. If a CRA, a user, or a provider of CRA data violates the FCRA, you may sue them in state or federal court.
You also may contact the appropriate federal agency tasked with enforcement.
National banks, federal branches/agencies of foreign banks (word "National" or initials "N.A." appear in or after bank’s name)
Federal Reserve System member banks (except national banks, and federal branches/agencies of foreign banks)
Savings associations and federally chartered savings banks (word "Federal" or initials "F.S.B." appear in federal institution’s name)
Federal credit unions (words "Federal Credit Union" appear in institution’s name)
State-chartered Banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System