The Fair Credit Reporting Act
If you've ever applied for a charge account, personal loan, insurance, or job, there's a file about you. This file contains information about where you work, 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 (CRAs). The most common type of CRA is the credit bureau. The information CRAs sell about you to creditors, employers, insurers, and other businesses 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 CRAs. Businesses that supply information about you to CRAs and those that use consumer reports also have new responsibilities under the law.
Here are some answers to questions consumers commonly ask about consumer reports and CRAs. You may have additional rights under state laws. Contact your state Attorney General or local consumer protection agency for more information.
Q. How do I find the CRA that has my report?
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.
Q. Do I have a right to know what's in my report?
Q. Is there a charge for my report?
Q. What can I do about inaccurate or incomplete information?
First, tell the CRA in writing what information you believe is inaccurate. CRAs must reinvestigate the items in 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 CRAs 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.
Q. What can I do if the CRA or information provider won't correct the information I dispute?
Q. Can my employer get my report?
Q. Can creditors, employers, or insurers get a report that contains medical information about me?
Q. What should I know about "investigative consumer reports?"
Q. How long can a CRA report negative information?
Q. Can anyone get a copy of my report?
Q. How can I stop a CRA from including me on lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers?
Q. Do I have the right to sue for damages?
Q. Are there other laws I should know about?
Q. Where should I report violations of the law?
For More Information
This document was written in March 1999 by the FTC.