The FCRA affords consumers many rights relating to their credit. Check out some of the finer points:
- Access to credit reports. All consumers, regardless of which state they live in, have the right to receive one free credit report annually from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. There is also no charge for a credit report if the consumer is (1) unemployed and planning to seek employment within 60 days, (2) on welfare, or (3) the report is inaccurate due to fraud. Otherwise the credit bureaus can change up to $8 dollars for the credit report (credit scores are not provided for free, but can be purchase).
- Access to credit score. Consumers have the right to ask for a credit score, which is a numerical summary of your credit-worthiness based on information from your credit files.
- Right to dispute inaccurate information. A consumer can dispute incomplete or inaccurate information with the CRA. If a consumer notifies a CRA that the credit report contains inaccurate information or is incomplete, the CRA must investigate the items within 30 days. The CRA will then send the disputed information to the source. The source must review the dispute, conduct an investigation, and report its findings back to the CRA. Finally, the CRA must provide the consumer with a written report of the investigation and a copy of an updated credit report if the investigation results in any change. If the furnisher does not respond to the CRA within the 30 day period, the CRA is required to treat the dispute information unverifiable and immediately delete the information.
- Inaccurate information must be corrected or deleted. A CRA must remove or correct inaccurate, incomplete, or unverified information from its files, usually within 30 days after they receive a dispute. However, the CRA is not required to remove accurate information from your file unless it is outdated or cannot be verified. If your dispute results in any change to the report, the CRA cannot reinsert the disputed item back into the consumer’s credit report unless the information source later verifies its accuracy and completeness. If this happens, the CRA must give the consumer a written notice telling them it has reinserted. The notice must include the name, address and phone number of the source (creditor, bank, etc.).
- Right to dispute directly with data furnisher. A new amendment to the FCRA allows you to dispute information with the furnisher directly. The furnisher is the party that reported the information to the CRA. The furnisher must investigate the dispute and report the results back to the person in the same time frame allowed for the CRAs. If they find the information to be inaccurate, they must correct or remove the information with each CRA they’ve shared the incorrect information with. In addition, once the furnisher has received the dispute letter, they may not continue to report the information without giving notice to the CRA of the dispute. In order to dispute directly with the data furnisher, a dispute must have been originated with the credit reporting agency first.
- Outdated information may not be reported. In most cases, a credit reporting agency may not report negative information that is more than seven years old (ten years for bankruptcies).