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What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a law passed by Congress designed to help promote accuracy and ensure the privacy of the information used in consumer reports. It is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

A person’s credit report determines many things over the course of your life. It can determine if you can get new credit, get a favorable interest rate, get a home or even get a job. The Fair Credit Reporting Act is there to make sure that any negative effects that your credit report has on your life are the result of poor credit decisions rather than false information or identity theft.

Below is a FAQ concerning the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Q: Does the Fair Credit Report Act let me contact the credit bureaus so I can find out what is on my report?
A: Yes. If you contact any of the three credit bureaus they will send you a copy of your report (charges may apply). You are entitled to one free report a year and a free copy every time you are declined for credit.

Q: What do you mean by “charges may apply” when I want a copy of my report?
A: What this means is that if you just want to have a look at your credit report, then you may have to pay for it. If you are denied for credit, insurance or employment and you request your report within 60 days, it is free. The Fair Credit Reporting Act demands this, so you are within your rights to ask for it. Also, as stated before you can get a free report once a year.

Q: Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, what do I do if there is inaccurate information on my report?
A: The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you a process that you must follow when disputing information. The process is as follows:

Tell the credit bureau in writing that you dispute the information.
The agency will investigate (wait at least 30 days)
Then the credit bureau will give you written notice of the results and a free credit report.
If the information was inaccurate, then they’ll remove it from your report. You might have to check to make sure the information is actually removed.

Q: What do I do if the credit bureau reports that the incorrect information is accurate?
A: Reinvestigation is not always going to solve your problem. If the creditor says the information is correct, most likely the credit bureau will believe them. But you still have options. You can:

Ask the credit bureau to file a statement that you dispute the charge
Contact your creditor directly and resolve the issue with them first, and then ask the credit bureau for another investigation.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, if you dispute an item a notice of your dispute must be included any time the information provider reports the item to a credit bureau.

Q: I think I was a victim of identity theft. What does the Fair Credit Reporting Act let me do?
A: The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you a lot of ways to prevent identity theft. You can place fraud alerts on your account. You are also protected from having to pay debts incurred as a result of identity theft. This will require some time and effort on your part. You will also be asked to sign sworn affidavits claiming that you did not, in fact, take out the credit card or other loan in question.

Q: How long can credit bureaus report negative information?
A: The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows negative information to be reported for seven years. Exceptions to this rule are:

Criminal convictions–no time limit
Bankruptcy–ten years
Application for job with an annual salary of $75,000 or higher–no time limit
Insurance application of more than $150,000–no time limit
Unpaid judgments–seven years or when the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.

Q: Who can obtain a copy of my credit report?
A: Only those that the Fair Credit Reporting Act deems has a legitimate need can obtain your report. So, a mortgage lender has a need to look at your report because he wants to see if you are worthy of borrowing money. The manager at McDonald’s, however, does not have a need to see your report in order to sell you a hamburger.

Q: What do I do if I think a bureau is violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act?
A: You can send information about your experiences to the Federal Trade Commission since they enforce the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You can send your questions or complaints to:

Consumer Response Center – Fair Credit Reporting Act
Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580.

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756 2nd Avenue
Maben, Mississippi 39750
662-552-2067 662-263-8600

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