Negative information on your credit report can harm you and impact your life in many ways. Creditors and debt collectors don’t always play fair when it comes to the items they report to agencies. The Fair Credit Reporting Act sets out certain credit reporting rights that are important for you to know and understand. Your credit report contains a great deal of personal, private information about you, information gleaned from many sources. That collection of information can greatly impact your life in many ways. It may determine whether you get a job or are accepted as a tenant in an apartment you want to rent. It determines whether you get a credit card, auto loan or mortgage, and how much interest you’re charged for it.
One of the places that consumer credit agencies like Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax – the three largest reporting agencies in the country – get their information about you is through reports made by your creditors. Because your credit score has such a big impact on your life, there are laws regarding how your report can be used, who can access your report, what can be listed on your report and what you can do if your report contains erroneous information. The Fair Credit reporting act and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, commonly known as FCRA and FACT, also provide penalties for debt collectors who falsely report negative information about you and for those who improperly use your report. They also provide tools that allow you to check your credit report at no cost under specific circumstances. Your Right to Know You have the right to know what’s on your credit report.
Under FCRA and FACT, you have the right to receive your report free of charge from each of the three major credit reporting agencies once each year. If you’ve been denied credit, turned down for a job or refused insurance because of something in your credit report, you have the right to request a free copy of your report within 60 days of being told you were denied. The credit card company or other entity is obligated to tell you on which report they based their decision so that you can request the right report. You also have a right to know when a creditor, debt collector or other reporter sends negative information about you to a consumer reporting agency. Under FCRA rules, creditors must inform you before they report negative information to a reporting agency. But that notice doesn’t have to be separate. It’s enough for them to include a statement on a bill or other communication stating that the company may report information about your account to consumer reporting agencies. They must also notify you within 30 days if they report negative information about you to a consumer reporting agency.
Disputing Inaccurate Information
Consumer research says that 70 to 80 percent of all credit reports contain inaccurate information and that 25 to 30 percent of reports contain inaccurate information that can make it difficult to get credit or a good interest rate. That inaccurate information may include such things as old credit lines that you no longer use, outdated information that should have been removed from your credit report because of age and inaccurate information reported by debt collectors. Any of that information can have a serious impact on your credit. That’s why it’s important to check your credit report regularly and dispute any inaccurate information that you find. If you find inaccurate information on your credit report, you should notify the consumer reporting agency that you dispute the information.
The credit bureau must investigate your dispute and require the entity that reported the information to prove the accuracy of their report. If the creditor finds that you’re correct, they must notify all three credit bureaus of the error and make a correction. If they refuse to do so, you can request that the credit bureau includes a letter of dispute from you with your credit report and send a copy of your letter to anyone that requests your credit report. In addition, there are special provisions for those who have been victims of identity theft or fraud, and rules about who must get your permission before accessing your credit report. If you believe that a creditor has falsely supplied information about you to a credit bureau, or that your report has been accessed or used improperly, it’s important to fight back. There are fair credit lawyers who will help you file a federal lawsuit for violations of the FCRA. If your suit is successful, you may receive a judgment for actual damages or between $100 and $1,000, as well as court costs and attorney fees.