To keep your information correct and safe, here’s five big rights you have under the Fair Credit Reporting Act:
- You have the right to know what is in your credit report file. Under the act, you can collect a copy of your credit report once every 12 months for free. The three biggest firms (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) offer one convenient report, which can be found at AnnualCreditReport.com. In some cases, you can review this information more often: if you are a victim of identity theft, you are unemployed but expect to apply for employment within 60 days, your file contains false information as a result of fraud, a person has taken adverse action against you because of your credit report or you are on public assistance.
- You must give your consent for distributing credit report information. Your credit report information may not be given out to just anyone who asks. There are specific criteria for viewing a credit report. Your report can only be viewed if: a court order has been issued, if you are applying for some form of credit, an insurance company is working on your behalf, or a government agency is determining whether to give you a license or other benefits. Other cases include a landlord considering you as a tenant or an employer wanting to check or verify information before offering you a job. These cases, however, require written consent from you. And if for some reason you are turned down for an application of credit, insurance or employment due to your credit report, you have the right to find out why.
- You have the right to dispute any incorrect information on your credit report. After you receive and review your report, if you find there are blatant errors in your history, you can do something about it. By law, the consumer reporting agencies must investigate all claims of false information. Inaccurate information must be removed or corrected within 30 days. You can know dispute credit report information online or in writing, but sending your dispute in writing by certified mail ensures you have a record of the dispute in case they refuse to remove an incorrect item you can show proof should be removed.
- There is a time limit on negative information reported on your credit report. If there are authentic negative items on your credit report because of past-due payments or a bankruptcy, and you are working to build your credit up, there is a time limit on how long negative items can remain on your credit report. Credit reporting agencies may not report negative information that is more than 7 years old or bankruptcies that are 10 years old.
- You may limit “prescreened” offers for credit and insurance. Have you received a tempting, pre-authorized offer in the mail lately for a new credit card? You have the right to opt-out of this prescreening process for five years or for life by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). This helps keep your information safe and secure.