Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

The FCRA is a federal law, established in 1971 and revised in 1997, that gives consumers the right to see their credit records and correct any mistakes.

Fair Credit Reporting Act Explained

The FCRA regulates consumer credit reporting and related industries to ensure that consumer information is reported accurately, timely, and complete. The Act was amended to address the sharing of consumer information with affiliates.

The FCRA covers the reporting of debt repayment information, requiring, for example, the removal of certain information after seven or ten years and giving consumers the right to know what is in their credit reports, to dispute inaccurate information, and to add a brief statement explaining accurate negative information.

Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in consumer reporting agencies’ files. There are many types of consumer reporting agencies, including credit bureaus and specialty agencies (such as those that sell information about check writing histories, medical records, and rental history records).

Here is a summary of your major rights under FCRA.

Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

You must be told if information in your file has been used against you. Anyone who uses a credit report or another type of consumer report to deny your application for credit, insurance, or employment – or to take another adverse action against you – must tell you and must give you the name, address, and phone number of the agency that provided the information.

Right to know what is in your file

You may request your credit report and obtain all the information about you in a consumer reporting agency’s files (your “file disclosure”). You will be required to provide proper identification, which may include your Social Security number.

In many cases, the disclosure will be free. You are entitled to a free file disclosure if:

  • a person has taken adverse action against you because of information in your credit report;
  • you are the victim of identity theft and place a fraud alert in your file;
  • your file contains inaccurate information as a result of fraud;
  • you are on public assistance;
  • you are unemployed but expect to apply for employment within 60 days.

In addition, all consumers are entitled to one free disclosure every 12 months upon request from each nationwide credit bureau and from nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies.

Right to ask for a credit score

Credit scores are numerical summaries of your creditworthiness based on information from credit bureaus. You may request a credit score from consumer reporting agencies that create scores or distribute scores used in residential real property loans, but you will have to pay for it. In some mortgage transactions, you will receive credit score information for free from the mortgage lender.

Right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information

If you identify information in your file that is incomplete or inaccurate and report it to the consumer
reporting agency, the agency must investigate unless your dispute is frivolous. Learn how to dispute credit report errors.

Right to correction of reports

Consumer reporting agencies must correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information within 30 days. However, a consumer reporting agency may continue to report information that has been verified as accurate. Learn how to correct inaccuracies in reports.

Right to updated information

Consumer reporting agencies may not report outdated negative information. In most cases, they may not report negative information over seven years old or bankruptcies over ten years old.

Right to limit access to your file

A consumer reporting agency may provide information about you only to people with a valid need – usually to consider an application with a creditor, insurer, employer, landlord, or other business. The FCRA specifies those with a valid need for access.

Right to consent for reports to be provided to employers

A consumer reporting agency may not give out information about you to your employer or a potential employer without your written consent given to the employer. Written consent generally is not required in the trucking industry.

Right to limit prescreened marketing offers

You may limit “prescreened” offers of credit and insurance you get based on information in your credit report. Unsolicited “prescreened” offers for credit and insurance must include a toll-free phone number you can call if you choose to remove your name and address from the lists on which these offers are based.

You may opt out with the nationwide credit bureaus at 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). Learn more about opting out of prescreened marketing offers.

Consumers Have the Right to Obtain a Security Freeze

You have a right to place a “security freeze” on your credit report, which will prohibit a consumer reporting agency from releasing information on your credit report without your express authorization. The security freeze is designed to prevent credit, loans, and services from being approved in your name without your consent.

However, you should be aware that using a security freeze to take control over who gets access to the personal and financial information in your credit report may delay, interfere with, or prohibit the timely approval of any subsequent request or application you make regarding a new loan, credit, mortgage, or any other account involving the extension of credit.

As an alternative to a security freeze, you have the right to place an initial or extended fraud alert on your credit file at no cost. An initial fraud alert is a 1-year alert that is placed on a consumer’s credit file. Upon seeing a fraud alert display on a consumer’s credit file, a business is required to take steps to verify the consumer’s identity before extending new credit. If you are a victim of identity theft, you are entitled to an extended fraud alert, which lasts 7 years.

A security freeze does not apply to a person or entity, its affiliates, or collection agencies acting on behalf of the person or entity with which you have an existing account that requests information in your credit report for the purposes of reviewing or collecting the account. Reviewing the account includes activities related to account maintenance, monitoring, credit line increases, and account upgrades and enhancements.

Right to seek damages from violators

If a consumer reporting agency, or, in some cases, a user of consumer reports or a furnisher of information to a consumer reporting agency, violates the FCRA, you may be able to sue in state or federal court.

Additional Rights

Identity theft victims and active-duty military personnel have additional rights.

States may enforce the FCRA, and many states have their own consumer reporting laws.
In some cases, you may have more rights under state law.

For more information, including information about additional rights,

go to: www.consumerfinance.gov/learnmore

or write to:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
1700 G Street N.W.,
Washington, DC 20552.