A consumer’s financial future can rise and fall on what’s in their credit report so keeping a close eye on the contents should be important to everyone.
Credit reports are used to decide who gets a loan, a credit card, a job, or even an apartment to rent, so few things are more crucial than having a credit report free of errors.
Still, credit report errors are made, and the consequences can be devastating.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970
Recognizing the life-altering power of credit information, Congress adopted the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in 1970 to protect consumers and regulate how credit information is used and disseminated. The law gives consumers the right to know what’s in their credit reports and free access to the scores that credit rating agencies assign them.
It also requires that anyone who denies a person credit, insurance or employment because of what is in their credit report, tell you where they got the information and how to contact the issuer.
Common violations of the FCRA include:
- Old information furnished as new information. Failure to update reports after completion of bankruptcy is just one example. Agencies might also report old debts as new and report a financial account as active when it was closed by the consumer.
- Creditors give reporting agencies inaccurate financial information about you.
- Reporting agencies mixing up one person’s information with another’s because of a similar (or same) last name or social security number.
- Agencies fail to follow guidelines for handling disputes.
- Pulling your report for an impermissible purpose. For instance, viewing a credit report to determine if you have assets before filing certain kinds of lawsuits.
- Failing to send you notifications about your credit report or score in violation of the FCRA.
- Reporting agencies providing information to unauthorized persons or businesses.
Not all FCRA actions are the result of errors or poorly maintained files. For example, in 2012 the Los Angeles Times reported about a data broker that agreed to pay $800,000 in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for allegations he illegally sold personal information to human resources, background screening and recruiting companies.