You have certain rights related to credit and your information because of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The act also requires consumer reporting agencies to handle your information fairly, responsibly, and within limits.
Let’s talk about those rights and responsibilities next, because they can benefit you.
While the act itself and the rules created because of it go into detail, the shorter version is that you have the right to:
- be told if someone uses information in your file against you
- know what’s in your consumer reporting files
- ask for a credit score (although you may have to pay for it)
- dispute information that’s incomplete or incorrect and have it removed if it can’t be verified
- limit “prescreened” credit and insurance offers that are based on your credit report
- put a security freeze on your credit files to stop anyone (including you, unless you lift it) from opening accounts in your name
- put an initial fraud alert on your credit files that lasts for 1 year at no cost
- go after damages from violators by with a lawsuit in state or federal court
And consumer reporting agencies must:
- fix or delete information on your report that’s inaccurate or incomplete, or that can’t be verified
- limit access by others to your file so only those with a valid need can get the information
- have your written consent (in most cases) before giving out information about you to employers or potential employers
- not report outdated negative information
(The requirement to fix or delete incorrect information is one of several good reasons to check your credit reports.)
Other Rights That May Apply
Some states also have laws that give you more rights related to credit and the information in your files at the consumer reporting agencies.
But even if that’s not the case for you, identity theft victims and people who are in the military have some extra rights as well under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Let’s go over those next.
If You’re in the Military…
Due to various rules and amendments to the FCRA, some extra rights apply to military members.
In that case, you have the right to:
- have free electronic credit monitoring if you’re active-duty or in the National Guard
- put an active duty alert that lasts up two years on your credit files
- be notified by a consumer reporting agency about any “material” changes or additions to your file (for example, if something negative shows up on your report)
- give contact information to the consumer reporting agencies for them to use while you’re on active duty
If You’re a Victim of Identity Theft
If you believe you are an identity theft victim, you have additional rights as well.
In that case, you also have the right to:
- put a no-cost extended fraud alert on your credit report that lasts for 7 years
- usually get copies of applications and business records that relate to your identity theft if you ask for them in writing. (Meaning documents related to the fraudulent transactions or accounts that were opened using your personal information.)
- get two free copies of what’s in your consumer reporting files during the 12 months after placing a fraud alert
- ask debt collectors about the names of creditors and the amounts of any debts you believe were created due to identity theft
- ask consumer reporting agencies to block information from your file that you’ve identified as being there due to identity theft. (For example, info about unpaid credit card debt that was fraudulently opened in your name.) After that, anyone with notice of the block is no longer allowed to sell, transfer, or send the blocked debt to collections.
- ask businesses not to report information about you to consumer reporting agencies if you believe it is a result of identity theft. You’ll have to tell the businesses what that is.
To take advantage of many of these special rights for victims of identity theft, you may need an identity theft police report, to prove who you are, and sometimes to provide extra information. You can get more details here.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you rights related to credit and the information your consumer files. It also restricts how the consumer reporting agencies can act, and requires them to be fair and responsible. Be sure to understand your rights and keep an eye on your information.