The Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, is a federal statute that was enacted by Congress to address credit report issues. Congress has recognized that the FCRA promotes accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies. The Act is meant to ensure that your credit reports are accurate, and that you have redress if there is incorrect information being reported. Having a correct credit report is extremely important as it can be used for many different reasons, including issues in attempting to obtain financing or credit, attempts to obtain or keep employment, efforts to purchase a home or rent an apartment or other property, acquiring a new vehicle, health related issues and more.
Typically when consumers think of credit reports, they only think of the big three reporting agencies, Transunion, Equifax and Experian. In reality, there are many types of consumer reporting agencies, including background, employment and specialty agencies (such as agencies that sell information about check writing histories, medical records, and rental history records). All of these reporting agencies are subject to the rules set forth in the FCRA.
The trade line entries on a credit report are placed there by a furnisher. A furnisher is the company that reports to the credit bureau information, including information about payments on the accounts. Examples of furnishers include banks, thrifts, credit unions, savings and loan institutions, mortgage lenders, credit card issuers, collection agencies, retail installment lenders, and auto finance lenders.
The trade line is the particular account listed on a credit report. Each separate account is a different trade line. Trade-line information is provided by a lender or financial institution to a credit-reporting bureau or more likely multiple bureaus. Some common issues that we see with trade lines or credit reports are “mixed files”. A mixed file is when someone else’s information is being reported on your credit report. This can happen to people with similar names like family members, or, it can happen randomly. We typically don’t hear about good accounts being mixed on your credit report, although that sometimes can be a problem. What we do hear about are when bad accounts are being shown on your credit report. We also handle credit report issues when false information is being reported, such as an allegation that you owe money to a company when you actually don’t owe any money or a perhaps a different amount may be owed.
Credit Report Issues?
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The FCRA requires you to notify the credit reporting agency of your dispute and provide sufficient documentation to them why you are right and why the furnisher is wrong. Once you give that information to the credit reporting agency, it will contact the furnisher and ask for a response. At this point most errors should be corrected, but if they are not corrected then you should contact us for a review of your case. We will ask to see a copy of the credit report and a copy of any responses from the credit reporting agencies. We will also ask to see the dispute information that you sent to the credit reporting agency. We strongly advise that all credit report disputes are made via U.S. Mail.
Credit reporting agencies are required to provide one free copy of your credit report each 12 months. For the big three, you can visit www.annualcreditreport.com. Make sure to save copies of every credit report. You can print the report or save a pdf copy on your computer. If you suffer from a mixed file, you might have a problem answering the security questions that the agencies ask when you are attempting to obtain your report. This is a common problem, and in that instance you would need to request your copy via U.S. Mail. Be prepared to provide copies of the necessary documents to prove that you are the correct person requesting your credit report. For other credit reporting agencies you should write or visit their website to learn how to request your credit report.
The FCRA also addresses who can pull your credit report. Typically the company pulling the report must have an enumerated reason to review your report. If you believe that someone has pulled your report without authorization you would potentially be entitled to money damages. All credit reports show, typically at the end, who pulled the report and for what reason the report was pulled. If you have a question or concern about who can pull a report, or why someone pulled the report, please contact our office.
In the event that you would have a claim under the FCRA for improper reporting, the law would require the credit reporting agency to pay you damages and attorney fees. It is important to note that we only would handle a case for which the consumer has a valid, legitimate dispute. If you are trying to remove a valid trade line, the FCRA won’t help.