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Credit Report : Commonly answered questions

If you ever applied for a charge account, a personal loan, insurance, or a job, there is a file about you. This file contains information on where you work and live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy.

Companies that gather and sell this information are called Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRA’s). The most common type of CRA is the credit bureau. The information CRA’s sell about you to creditors, employers, insurers, and other business is called a consumer report.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, is designed to promote accuracy and ensure the privacy of the information used in consumer reports. Recent amendments to the Act expand your rights and place additional requirements on CRA’s. Businesses that supply information about you to CRA’s and those that use consumer reports also have new responsibilities under the law.

Here are some questions consumers commonly ask about consumer reports and CRA’s – and the answers. Note that you may have additional rights under state laws. Contact your state Attorney General or local consumer protection agency for more information.

Questions:

1. How do I obtain my credit report and how long does it take?
2. How do I find the CRA that has my report?
3. Do I have a right to know what’s in my report?
4. Is there a charge for my report?
5. What can I do about inaccurate or incomplete information?
6. What can I do if the CRA or information provider won’t correct the information that I dispute?
7. Can my employer get my report?
8. Can creditors, employers, or insurers get a report that contains medical information about me?
9. What should I know about “ investigative consumer reports”?
10. How long can a CRA report negative information?
11. Can anyone get a copy of my report?
12. How can I stop a CRA from including me on lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers?
13. Do I have the right to sue for damages?
14. Are there other laws I should know about?
15. Where should I report violations of the law?

1. How do I obtain my credit report and how long does it take?

We can obtain a copy of your credit report at your FREE consultaion. It takes as little as 15 seconds and we will recieve thereport from all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. This is included in the fees that you pay to the attorney.

2. How do I find the CRA that has my report?

Contact the CRA’s listed in the yellow pages under “credit” or “credit rating and reporting.” Because more than one CRA may have a file on you, call each until you locate all the agencies maintaining your file. The three major national credit bureaus are:

· Equifax
800-685-1111
www.equifax.com

· Experian
888-397-3742
www.experian.com

· Trans Union
800-916-8800
www.transunion.com

In addition, anyone who takes action against you in response to a report supplied by a CRA- such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment- must give you the name, address, and telephone number of the CRA that provided the report.

3. Do I have a right to know what’s in my report? Back to top

Yes. If you ask for it. The CRA must tell you everything in your report, including medical information, and in most cases, the sources of the information. The CRA also must give you a list of everyone who has requested your report within the past year- two years for employment related requests.

4. Is there a charge for my report? Back to top

Sometimes. When you obtain your credit report in your appointment here at Humpleby Law Office, it is included in the fees. There is no charge if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you request your report within 60 days of receiving the notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the CRA. In addition, you’re entitled to one free report a year (1) your unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, (2) you’re on welfare, or (3) your report is inaccurate because of fraud. Otherwise a CRA may charge you up to $9 for a copy of your report.

5. What can I do about inaccurate or incomplete information? Back to top

Under the new law, both the CRA and the information provider have responsibilities for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To protect all your rights under this law, contact both the CRA and the information provider.

First, tell the CRA in writing what information you believe is inaccurate. CRA’s must reinvestigate the items in the question- usually within 30 days- unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all relevant data you provide about the dispute to the information provider. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the CRA, it must investigate, review all relevant information provided by the CRA, and report the results to the CRA. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all nationwide CRA’s so that they can correct this information in your file.

When the reinvestigation is complete, the CRA must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or removed, the CRA cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies its accuracy and completeness, and the CRA gives you a written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the provider.

Second, tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider then reports the item to any CRA, it must include a notice of your dispute. In addition, if you are correct- that is, if the information is inaccurate- the information provider may not use it again.

6. What can I do if the CRA or information provider won’t correct the information that I dispute? Back to top

A reinvestigation may not resolve your dispute with the CRA. If that is the case, ask the CRA to include your statement of the dispute in your file and in future reports. If you request, the CRA also will provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of the old report in the recent past. There usually is a fee for this service.

If you tell the information provider that you dispute an item, a notice of your dispute must be included anytime the information provider reports the item to a CRA.

7. Can my employer get my report? Back to top

Only if you say that it’s okay. A CRA may not supply information about you to your employer, or to a prospective employer, without your consent.

8. Can creditors, employers, or insurers get a report that contains medical information about me? Back to top

Not without your approval.

9. What should I know about “ investigative consumer reports”? Back to top

“Investigative consumer reports” are detailed reports that involve interviews with your neighbors or acquaintances about your lifestyle, character, and reputation. They may be used in connection with insurance and employment applications. You’ll be notified in writing when a company orders such a report. This notice will explain your right to request certain information about the report from the company that you applied to. If your application is rejected, you may get additional information from the CRA. However, the CRA does not have to reveal the sources of the information.

10. How long can a CRA report negative information? Back to top

Seven years. There are certain exception:

· Information about criminal convictions may be reported without any time limitation.
· Bankruptcy information may be reported for 10 years.
· Information reported in response to an application for a job with a salary of more than $75,000 has no time limit.
· Information reported because of an application for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance has no time limit.
· Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.

11. Can anyone get a copy of my report? Back to top

No. Only people with a legitimate business need, as recognized by the FCRA. For example, a company is allowed to get your report if you apply for credit, insurance, employment, or to rent an apartment.

12. How can I stop a CRA from including me on lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers? Back to top

Creditors and insurers may use CRA file information on a basis for sending you unsolicited offers. These offers must include a toll-free number for you to call if you want to remove your name and address from lists for two years; completing a form that CRA provides for this purpose will keep your name off the lists permanently.

13. Do I have the right to sue for damages? Back to top

You may sue a CRA, a user or- in some cases- a provider of CRA data, in state or federal court for most violations of the FCRA. If you win, the defendant will have to pay damages and reimburse you for the attorney fees to the extent ordered by the court.

14. Are there other laws I should know about? Back to top

Yes. If your credit application was denied, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires creditors to specify why- if you don’t ask. For example, the creditor must tell you whether you were denied because you have “no credit file” with a CRA or because the CRA says you have “delinquent obligations.” The ECOA also requires creditors to consider additional information you might supply about your credit history. You may want to find out why the creditor denied your application before you contact the CRA.

15. Where should I report violations of the law? Back to top

Although the FTC can’t act as your lawyer in private disputes, information about your experiences and concerns is vital to the enforcement of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Send your questions or complaints to: Consumer Response Center- FCRA, Federal Trade Commission, Washington D.C. 20580.


For More Information Back to top

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information or consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.


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