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Credit Reporting FAQ's

Legal Counsel in Pennsylvania

Do I have a right to know what's in my report?
Yes, if you ask for it. The Credit Reporting Agency (CRA) must tell you everything in your report, including, in most cases, the sources of the information. The CRA must also give you a list of everyone who has requested your report within the past year - two years for employment-related requests.

Is there a charge for my report?
Everyone is entitled to one free credit report a year. And there's never a charge if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance or employment, and you request your report within 60 days of receiving the notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the CRA.

In addition, you may be entitled to an additional free report if you're unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, you're on welfare, or your report is inaccurate because of fraud.

What can I do about inaccurate or incomplete information?
Under the new law, both the CRA and the information provider have responsibilities for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To protect all your rights under this law, contact both the CRA and the information provider.

First, inform the CRA in writing about the information you believe is inaccurate. The CRA must reinvestigate the items in question - usually within 30 days - unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They must also forward all relevant data you provide about the dispute to the information provider. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the CRA, it must investigate and review all relevant information provided by the CRA and report the results back to the CRA. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all nationwide CRAs so that they can correct this information in your file.

When the reinvestigation is complete, the CRA must give you the written results and a free copy of your report, if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or removed, the CRA cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the creditor verifies its accuracy and completeness and the CRA gives you a written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the creditor.

Next, tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider then reports the item to any CRA, it must include a notice of your dispute. In addition, if the information is inaccurate, the information provider may not use it again.

What can I do if the CRA or information provider won't correct the information I dispute?
A reinvestigation may not resolve your dispute with the CRA. If that's the case, ask the CRA to include your statement of the dispute in your file and in future reports. If you request, the CRA also will provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of the old report in the recent past. There usually is a fee for this service.

If you tell the information provider that you dispute an item, a notice of your dispute must be included anytime the information provider reports the item to a CRA.

Can my employer get my report?
Only if you say it's okay. A CRA may not supply information about you to your employer, or to a prospective employer, without your consent.

Can creditors, employers or insurers get a report that contains my medical information?
Not without your approval.

What should I know about investigative consumer reports?
Investigative consumer reports are detailed reports that involve interviews with your neighbors or acquaintances about your lifestyle, character, and reputation. They may be used in connection with insurance and employment applications. You'll be notified in writing when a company orders such a report. The notice will explain your right to request certain information about the report from the company you applied to. If your application is rejected, you may get additional information from the CRA. However, the CRA does not have to reveal the sources of the information.

How long can a CRA report derogatory information?
Seven years. But there are certain exceptions:

  • Information about criminal convictions may be reported without any time limitation
  • Bankruptcy information may be reported for 10 years
  • Information reported in response to an application for a job with a salary of more than $75,000 has no time limit
  • Information reported as a result of an application for credit that exceeds $150,000 or life insurance has no time limit
  • Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations run out, whichever is longer

Can anyone get a copy of my report?
No. Only people with a legitimate business need, as recognized by the FCRA, can request your report. For example, a company is allowed to get your report if you apply for credit, insurance, employment, or to rent an apartment.

Is it true that I can hire a company to repair my damaged credit?
While it is true that you can hire a company to assist you in repairing a damaged credit score, it is important to understand that most of these offers are nothing more than a well-organized scam. If they don't convince you to engage in fraudulent activity, they may just take your money and run. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you remain reasonably skeptical. The truth is that you should be able to do everything that they can—as there is often very little that you can do to restore your credit score, other than reporting inaccurate information and making financially wise decisions.

How often should I check my credit report for inaccuracies?
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus every 12 months—including Equifax, Experian and Transunion. This means that you can review a different report every four months at no cost. While these reports are readily available, very few consumers actually check them on a regular basis. It may not be necessary to check your report numerous times a year, but it is highly recommended that you do so at least three months before a major financial move—as this would give you time to dispute and correct any damaging inaccuracies.

How do I request a credit report from Equifax, Experian or Transunion?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) states that all consumers are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies—including Transunion, Experian and Equifax. In order to request a copy of your report, you can do one of three things. You can call their toll-free number at 1-877-322-8228, visit their official website at AnnualCreditReport.com or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to the following address:

  • Annual Credit Report Request Service
    P.O. Box 105281
    Atlanta, GGA 30348-5281

In order to obtain a copy of your credit report, you will need to provide your name, address, date of birth and Social Security Number. The credit reporting agency may also ask you to confirm confidential information so that they can maintain the security of your file—which could include the amount of your monthly mortgage payment, for example. It is important that you do not contact each company individually, however, as you will need to request a report in one of three ways that we have provided.

Read our page on the Fair Credit Reporting Act to learn more about your rights under the law, or contact our office to speak with Philadelphia debt collection defense attorney Michael Forbes about your situation.

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