Fair Credit Reporting Act /
By Steve Wilcott
Do you know what's in your credit report? Under the terms of the Fair Credit
Reporting Act (FCRA), you have every right to know exactly what credit reporting
agencies are saying about you. That's only one of the rights that the FCRA
guarantees you - and every consumer.
The FCRA is meant to ensure accuracy and privacy of your credit report or
consumer history. Businesses that use credit histories to determine whether to
lend you money or offer you credit are bound to follow guidelines that are set
out by the FCRA. In addition, any agency that collects debts must also follow
certain guidelines that are set out by the law. The provisions of the FCRA
detail how long particular financial information may be retained on your report,
specify ways for you to make corrections to information that is in your credit
history, guarantee your right to see your credit report, and give you rights
when dealing with creditors.
What specifically are these guidelines and how can they help you if a credit
agency is reporting unfair or misleading information about your credit history?
1) You have a right to see your credit report.
If you have been turned down for credit, housing or employment based on
information provided by a credit reporting agency, you have a right to know
which agency provided the report. Upon your request, the creditor must give you
the name and address of the credit reporting agency that they used. Further, the
credit reporting agency must provide you with your credit report upon your
written request for it, and they must do so for no more than the cost of copying
2) You have the right to correct your credit report.
If the credit report you receive contains inaccuracies - for instance, a paid or
settled debt is still listed as unpaid - you have the right to request that it
be corrected with the accurate information. The request must be made in writing,
and the credit reporting agency to whom you make the request must investigate it
within 30 days of their receipt.
3) You have the right to receive a corrected copy of the report at no additional
charge (beyond postage or copying costs).
You may make a written request to have a corrected copy of your credit report
sent to you, or to any agency that has requested your credit report in the past
six months for credit purposes, or in the past two years for employment
4) You have the right to fair collection practices.
If a creditor is trying to collect a debt from you, they must follow guidelines
designed to prevent harassment. Among those guidelines are:
1. They may not call you outside certain prescribed hours.
2. They may not disclose information about you to any third party without your
permission. This includes the fact that they are attempting to collect a debt.
3. They may not attempt to contact you at work without your specific permission.
4. They may not use false or misleading statements to extract information or
5. They must honor a written request to cease further contact with you.
In a world where your credit report is often your ticket to a better-paying job,
housing, credit and many other things, it's important to know what credit
agencies are reporting about you. Most consumer protection agencies strongly
recommend that you request and carefully read your credit report every 2-3 years
so that you can correct any inaccuracies, or request that reports of special
circumstances be attached to the report. It's a small chore that could save you
a lot in the long run.
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