Fair Credit Reporting Act
Your credit history affects all aspects of your life. A negative consumer report can prevent you from receiving important loans, obtaining gainful employment, buying a car, or even finding a place to live. The importance of your consumer credit report makes having access to that information and the ability to address inaccurate data contained therein crucial to your ability to function in the world.
Passed in 1970, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that regulates fairness, accuracy, and privacy of your information among reporting agencies. The FCRA regulates what entities can access your information, how they access it, how it’s used, and what rights you have regarding information in your consumer reports.
A consumer report is a record of information kept on file by a Consumer Reporting Agency depicting your credit standing, worthiness, and capacity, along with data about your character, living situation, and reputation. Your consumer report is used to determine your eligibility for credit, insurance, and sometimes employment purposes. Within your consumer report is your credit report. While the consumer report has personal information, the credit report specifically reflects your financial accounts, debts, and financial history.
At Agruss Law Firm, we specialize in consumer law so that we can protect you from predatory companies that illegally use the data in your consumer report against you. We can help you remove inaccurate information or take action against an entity that illegally accessed your report and used the information against you. If your FCRA rights have been violated, we can help you seek damages.
What Rights Do You Have Under the FCRA?
The FCRA outlines several rights that support your ability to know the contents of your consumer report and dispute inaccurate information. According to the FCRA, you have the following rights:
- To be told if the information in your consumer report is used against you and know which agency reported the information.
- To know what is in your file, including one free credit history report in a 12-month period.
- To ask for a credit score. In some cases, you may receive your credit score for free, but often you will pay a fee to receive the score.
- To dispute inaccurate or incomplete information.
- Inaccurate or incomplete information will be investigated and removed or corrected if it is unverifiable.
- Outdated negative information shall be removed after seven years or ten years for bankruptcy.
- To keep your information private and accessible only by those with a valid need, typically landlords, employers, insurers, or creditors.
- Your information will not be released to an employer without express written consent.
- To limit prescreened, unsolicited credit and insurance offers.
- To obtain a security freeze on your credit report to prevent unauthorized credit approvals without your consent.
- To seek damages from a consumer reporting agency or other entity that violates the FCRA regulations.
Why is Your Credit Report Information Important?
Information in your credit report can affect many areas of your life. Financial institutions, car dealerships, rental companies, potential employers, and insurance companies all view your credit report to decide on how much to lend you, at what interstate rate, or whether to approve you at all. Inaccurate or harmful information in your report can drastically limit your options in these areas.
Common FCRA Violations
Due to the complexity of the FCRA regulations, you may experience a violation of your rights without even being aware it has occurred. The following are some of the most common FCRA violations that our team at Agruss Law Firm handles for our clients.
Reporting Old, Inaccurate Information
This occurs when your credit reporting agency reports old information as an ongoing or updated occurrence. This can include reporting debt as charged-off when it was paid off, reporting late payments when you paid on time, reporting debt as outstanding when it was discharged in bankruptcy, reporting old debts as new, reporting an incorrect statement of balance, or reporting negative information that is more than seven years old.
Inefficient Dispute Procedures
When a reporting agency receives a written dispute, it must follow a certain procedure to verify the information. This should include investigating the claim, correcting or removing inaccurate data, and notifying you within 30 days.
The same principle goes for creditors. If you dispute a charge on your account, the creditor should follow a similar procurement and notify you of their findings and correction of information. When a company fails to put these procedures in place and address your written dispute, they are in violation of the FCRA.
Mixing Up Data
This happens when a reporting agency mixes up your data with someone else’s personal information resulting in inaccurate data on your consumer report. Data mix-ups most often occur when a person has a similar name or SSN to yours, and the company doesn’t take the necessary precautions to ensure their reporting is accurate. Mixing up data can have severe negative consequences on your credit score, especially if the mix-up inaccurately suggests that you have a criminal conviction.
Invalid or Illegal Access to Your Data
This type of violation infringes on your privacy and refers to an entity that accesses your consumer report without a valid need or expressed permission. A valid need includes a creditor or financial institution to which you've applied for credit, a landlord, insurance provider, or utility company.
In the case of an employer, you must give written permission for them to access your consumer report. If a potential employer pulls your report without your permission to decide on your employment, they can be sued.
It is also illegal for an entity to pull your account for invalid reasons, such as to a litigant trying to determine if you can pay in the case of a lawsuit or a creditor checking on your financial dealings while you are in the process of filing for bankruptcy.
Failure to Send Notices
One of your rights set forth by the FCRA is to be notified of who accesses your report and how they use the information. A violation may occur when a creditor doesn’t notify you that they are supplying negative data or when an employer or lender does not inform you that an unfavorable decision was made because of information in your report and supplying you with the source of that information.
Failure to Provide Annual Credit Report
If a creditor fails to give you your credit score if it was used in a credit decision or a creditor fails to notify you that you have the right to receive a free credit report, they are in violation of the FCRA.
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit history once per year. This is provided by one of the three main reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and should be provided after you provide proper identification. There are additional circumstances in which you are entitled to a free copy of your report. These include if you:
- Are denied credit
- Were charged a higher interest rate due to your credit report
- Are unemployed and actively looking for work
- Are on welfare
- Have been a victim of identity theft
Who Can I Sue?
Although the Federal Trade Commission is responsible for enforcing the FCRA, lawsuits against the FTC are rare. The FTC more often protects consumers by bringing lawsuits against major FCRA violations perpetrated by companies like Kohls and RealPage.
Most commonly, lawsuits are brought against consumer reporting agencies and background check companies, potential employers, landlords, creditors, or other entities that violate FCRA guidelines.
What Type of Compensation Can You Receive?
When your FCRA rights are violated, you can seek damages. These may be actual or statutory. You can also attempt to recover attorney’s fees, court costs, and in some cases, punitive damages.
There are two main types of violations that determine what type of compensation you can receive: willful and negligent.
Willful violations are the more serious of the two and therefore allow for greater awarded damages. A willful violation indicates that the entity that violated your FCRA rights was aware of their actions and knew they would cause harm.
In the case of willful violations, you may be awarded actual damages or losses that can be proven because of the harm caused, or statutory damages, which don’t require proof. Statutory damages often have lower limits that are set by the state. In some cases, you may be able to seek punitive damages, but this is rare.
While still capable of producing real harm, negligent violations are considered less serious because they indicate that a business or individual did not maliciously violate your rights. Instead, their behavior was negligent regarding the use of your consumer report. You are entitled to the same types of damages as those in willful violations cases. However, the awarded amounts will typically be much lower.
When you sue for an FCRA violation, you can do so without paying your legal fees upfront. At Agruss Law Firm, we don’t get paid until you win your case. The FCRA includes a provision that says if you win, the reporting agency is responsible for your court costs and attorney fees, which means you don’t have to use your own money to fight for your rights.
What Can I Not Sue Over?
While it is important to know what violations necessitate a lawsuit under the FCRA, it is also important to be aware of the types of lawsuits that may be dismissed.
If your complaint is frivolous or irrelevant, the consumer reporting agency may choose to stop an investigation. This happens when you fail to provide enough information for them to investigate the disputed data accurately.
Additionally, you may lose a lawsuit if you filed it just to harass a business or individual. If you opt for a lawsuit in bad faith, you might also end up being responsible for the attorney fees accrued by the other party.
There are several important deadlines to be aware of in regards to the FCRA.
- Reporting agencies have 30 days to 45 days to correct or remove disputed data.
- You must be alerted about any negative information that has been reported within 30 days.
- Under federal law, you have two years after discovering a violation and five years from the date of the breach to file a lawsuit.
When to Seek Legal Advice
When you first notice inaccurate information on your consumer report, you should follow the instructions provided by each reporting bureau for reporting a dispute. Once you file a complaint, the reporting agency should investigate your claim. The company should correct the errors within 30 days and send you an updated report to show the changes.
Sometimes, however, reporting agencies do not take your dispute seriously and conduct a minimal investigation. This results in continual problems as you attempt to get the inaccurate information removed or updated. This is when you may have to consider filing a lawsuit against the reporting agency.
You may also choose to take legal action if you feel that your FCRA rights have been violated and caused significant damage to your ability to be approved for a loan, employment, or rental space. The attorneys with Agruss Law Firm are experienced in consumer law relating to FCRA regulations and can help you determine the best legal course of action to take.
When you work with our lawyers, you can expect to get a thorough evaluation of your situation. We will help you dispute inaccurate information contained in your consumer credit report and resolve your case. If you have already suffered damages due to an FCRA violation, we will help you seek the maximum amount of damages for the harm the other party’s actions have caused.
Contact Us For a Free Case Review
At Agruss Law Firm, we take your consumer rights seriously. We understand the impact that the information in your consumer report can have on your ability to reach your personal and professional goals. If you are having difficulty removing inaccurate information or have already suffered adverse consequences due to a violation of your FCRA rights, contact our law firm today for a free case review.
You can call us at 888-572-0176, e-mail us at [email protected], or set up an appointment online. We are happy to help you get started on repairing your consumer credit report and holding violators responsible for their actions.
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Submit a Complaint filed by: Keenan Bedenfield7 days ago
(1) I use CHIME app's "Credit Builder" secured credit card. They have reported to the credit bureau a late payment / current balance for a transaction that I had the funds available to cover the transaction. (2) I have always had auto-pay Enabled thus said Transaction would have been auto-paid with available funds by the close of the billing cycle in accordance with the Chime app Credit Builder agreement. (3) The statement history shows transactions were being auto-paid by the 23rd due dates(August for this transaction), or 1st of each following month but the Transaction in question was paid on the 2nd of Sept 2021 instead.
Submit a Complaint filed by: Anthony22 days ago
American Express violated 15USC1692d and harassed me with non stop phone calls over an alleged debt. They have also just violated 15usc1692e8. I sent American Express a debt validation letter which they received August 9th. And they failed to record my account on file as disputed when they updated my Experian credit report August 17th. They also failed to provide validation for alleged debt
Submit a Complaint filed by: Aaron22 days ago
1. I was a victim of identity theft. 2. A collection agency by the name of Resurgent Capital claimed that they closed the debt due to fraud, and the account would not be sold. Resurgent Capital either sold or released the debt that was caused by identity theft to another collection agency by the name of Apex Business Solutions which is to say the least could possibly be a violation of FCRA 615 (f), 15 U.S.C 1681 m(f) Prohibition on sale of Debt Caused by Identity Theft. 2. Apex Business Solutions is a collection agency trying to collect on a debt that was prohibited from being sold due to identity theft. Apex Business Solution could possibly be in violation of Section 807 of the FDCPA 1692e including but not limited to Falsely representing the character, amount, or legal status of the debt that they are trying to collect that is a result of identity theft, which should not be in their possession in the first place. Furthermore, Apex in their correspondence was attempting to get me to settle this debt by using some type of language that the debt will be discharged and reported to the I.R.S through a 1099-C filing for the 2021 tax year as and uncollectable debt. However IRS 2021 Instructions for Forms 1099A and 1099C state: Do not file form 1099C when fraudulent debt is canceled due to identity theft. Your help is needed in this situation. Thank you for your time and consideration
Submit a Complaint filed by: Ralph23 days ago
Working with a BAD DEBT COLLECTOR They have violated my credit report over and over again.....NOW I would like to file a law suit against them Can discuss in further details later
Submit a Complaint filed by: Hervens27 days ago
A debt collector placed a debt on my report without a notice sent to me only a demand for payment and before I had the chance to dispute furnished to my report. Couple days later