Your Free Credit Report Rights
Free credit report offers have increasingly appeared on TV, in your
e-mail In Box and on the Internet over the last few years. This is due in
part to the increase in identity theft cases, because checking your credit
report can help you detect instances of identity theft.
The main reason behind this flurry of free credit report offers, though, was
Congress’ amendment to The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in 2003. This
amendment requires each of the nationwide credit reporting bureaus — Equifax,
Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free credit report, at your
request, once every 12 months. The law was rolled out in different parts
of the country and went into effect nationwide in September 2005.
Beyond a free credit report every year, though, what other rights does FCRA
grant you as a consumer? Read on ….
Your Free Credit Report Rights Under FCRA
You have the right to know what’s in your file. Under FCRA, you
have a right to “file disclosure.” You’ll need to provide proper identification
to access this information, but in many cases, the disclosure will be free.
You must be told if information in your file has been used against you.
Anyone who uses the information in your credit report to deny you credit,
insurance, or employment — or to take other adverse action against you — is
required to tell you. That person or institution is also obligated to
tell you the name, address, and phone number of the agency that provided the
You have the right to request a credit score. Your credit score is
a numeric assessment of your creditworthiness; it’s used by lenders and others
to decide whether to give you a loan, extend you credit, rent you an apartment
and more. While your free credit report won’t include a credit score, you
can request a credit score from the three credit bureaus. You’ll have to
pay for it, though, except in certain transactions with your mortgage lender.
You have the right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information.
If you order a free credit report and find incomplete or inaccurate information
in your file, you can report it to the consumer reporting agency. Unless
your dispute is frivolous, the agency must investigate your claim.
Credit reporting bureaus must correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete, or
unverifiable information from your credit report.
incomplete or unverifiable information must be removed or corrected, usually
within 30 days. However, if a credit reporting bureau has verified that the
information is accurate, they may continue to report it.
Credit reporting bureaus may not report outdated negative information.
In most cases, negative information that is over seven years old must be
removed. In the case of a bankruptcy, the information can stay on your
report for up to 10 years.
Access to your file is limited. Only people with a valid need to
see your credit information — a creditor, insurer, employer, landlord, or other
business — can access it. The FCRA specifies those with a valid need for
Employers can access your credit report only with your consent.
Your credit information can be shared with your employer, or a potential
employer, only after you’ve given written consent to the employer. This
written consent generally isn’t required in the trucking industry.
(Source: A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act,
You can limit “prescreened” offers of credit and insurance you get based on
information in your credit report.
The FCRA requires that
unsolicited, “prescreened” offers for credit and insurance include a toll-free
phone number you can call if you want your name and address removed from the
lists on which these offers are based. You can opt out with the nationwide
credit bureaus by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).
You may seek damages from violators. If a credit reporting bureau,
a user of credit reports, or a furnisher of information to a credit reporting
bureau violates the FCRA, you may be able to sue in state or federal court.
Identity theft victims and active-duty military personnel have additional
Active-duty military personnel can place an “active duty
alert” in their credit reports that requires creditors to verify their identity
before issuing credit in their name. Similarly, identity theft victims
can place “fraud alerts” in their credit reports to require creditors to
contact them before opening any new accounts or making any changes to their
Many states have their own credit reporting laws, and in some cases, you may
have more rights under state law. Contact your state or local consumer
protection agency or your state Attorney General. And be sure to visit
www.ftc.gov/credit for more information about the FCRA and your