What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that requires accuracy in personal credit reports. If your rights under the FCRA have been violated, you should contact a North Carolina debt defense attorney as quickly as possible to discuss your recourse and legal options.
Like most of us, you probably work quite hard to pay your bills, and you do not need any errors on your credit report. A mistake on your credit report may prevent you from receiving approval for a loan, obtaining a credit card, renting an apartment, or trying to purchase a home.
What are your rights under the FCRA? If those rights are violated, can you take legal action? When should you contact a North Carolina debt defense lawyer? If you’ll keep reading this brief discussion of the FCRA and your consumer rights, you will find the answers you may need.
What is a Credit Bureau?
A credit bureau is an agency that gathers data regarding your credit and presents it to lenders when you apply for credit. That information is sensitive, and it must be accurate.
The three leading credit bureaus in the United States – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – gather information about you and your credit from credit reporting agencies and send details regarding you and your credit to banks, businesses, employers, and even to landlords.
What Does the FCRA Provide?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act protects information that is collected by reporting agencies, credit bureaus, medical data companies, and tenant screening services. Information in a credit report may not be provided to anyone who does not have a legal purpose for it as the FCRA requires.
Agencies that send information to the credit bureaus have legal responsibilities, including a duty to investigate information that is in dispute. Those who receive reports for insurance, credit, or employment purposes must tell consumers when adverse actions are based on these reports.
The FRCA legally protects the accuracy of the data reported to Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. The law spells out what should be included in credit information reports, and it gives consumers the right to dispute credit information that they believe is inaccurate.
What Can You Do if Your Credit Report is Inaccurate?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act compels lenders and credit reporting agencies to handle consumer disputes seriously, but if incorrect information appears on a consumer’s credit report, the burden of proof that the information is inaccurate falls on the consumer.
Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion give you an opportunity to correct errors that may appear on their reports. Complaints to these agencies may be filed online or by mail. The details for how such disputes are handled are available at the Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion websites.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act makes it a consumer’s responsibility to examine his or her own credit reports and to have any mistakes corrected. Consumers should regularly and carefully scrutinize and evaluate each bureau’s credit report.
What Inaccuracies Are Common in Credit Reports?
Misleading or inaccurate information on a credit report can include but is not limited to:
- mistaking you for someone else with the same or a similar name
- reporting that a debt was written off when in fact that debt was paid or settled
- reporting your payments as late when you have made the payments on time
- wrongly reporting what you owe on a debt
What Happens When You Dispute a Credit Report?
Almost all credit reports contain at least a few trivial inaccuracies. If you are disputing any of the information that is included in a credit report, you must offer documented proof that the information is in error.
Under the FCRA, if you send a notice of dispute to any of the three credit bureaus, that bureau has thirty days to investigate your claim. Upon receiving your notice, the bureau must update your credit report to show that you are disputing the report and your claim is under investigation.
It may take as long as thirty days for a credit bureau to remove an inaccuracy from a credit report. If the bureau determines that the report you are disputing was in fact accurate, a statement indicating that the information “meets FCRA requirements” may be included on the report.
If a credit bureau makes the wrong determination regarding disputed information, you should contact a debt defense attorney at once to discuss your legal options.
Why Do the Different Credit Bureaus Give You Different Credit Scores?
Your credit score from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion is rarely the same score. That’s typical, and there are several reasons for this:
- Each credit bureau includes different information in its reports. Your credit score will depend on how often your credit information is updated and on how far back that information extends.
- There are dozens of credit scoring models or ways to calculate a credit score. Each model calculates risk differently, so your score may vary among the three credit bureaus depending on the model that a bureau is using.
Different lenders receive reports about your credit from different credit bureaus. When you apply for credit, check your score from all three bureaus, and ask the lender which bureau it uses so that you will know exactly what credit score the lender is seeing.
When Can You Take Legal Action?
As mentioned above, when you dispute the details in a credit report, the FCRA gives the credit bureau thirty days to fix the mistake. After thirty days, if the bureau takes no action or continues to insist that the mistake is accurate, contact a North Carolina debt defense attorney.
Anyone who asks for your credit details must have a legal reason as specified by the FCRA, so contact a North Carolina debt defense lawyer at once if you believe your confidentiality was violated by a credit bureau or by anyone who reports to or receives reports from credit bureaus.
In North Carolina, a debt defense attorney will aggressively fight for and protect your consumer rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. That is only one of the services that a debt defense attorney provides.
If you are being sued for a debt or harassed by a collection agency, if your wages have been garnished, if you are facing repossession or foreclosure, or if you are considering bankruptcy, contact a debt defense lawyer at once for the advice, services, and legal representation you need.