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Your Rights With Credit Reports

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Your credit report plays a role in where you live, what car you drive, how much you pay in interest charges, how much you pay insurance, and those are just a few of the ways your credit report is used. While credit bureaus have the task, or privilege depending on how you look at it, of maintaining your credit report, you have certain rights that keep you from being taken advantage of.

You can see your credit report.

Once upon a time, credit reports were off-limits to consumers – you couldn’t even see the information lenders were using to make a decision about you. Fortunately, the law now gives consumers the right to view their credit reports. This isn't limited to credit reports, but other types of consumer reports that businesses use to process your application.

You can know who's accessed your credit report.

If someone accesses your credit report, their name will be listed in the “Inquiries” section of your credit report. Unless you enroll in credit monitoring, you won’t get an automatic notification that your credit report has been pulled. Instead, you’ll have to get a recent copy of your credit report to learn who’s viewed it.

You have the right to a free credit report every year.

In 2003, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act gave all consumers the right to an annual free credit report from each of the credit bureaus. Make sure you get this annual free credit report through the special website, AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the only site for getting your government-granted annual credit report so beware of impostor websites.

You can get a free credit report in a few other situations, too.

Under the FCRA, you're also entitled to a free credit report if you’ve been turned down for a product or service based on information in your credit report (must request this report within 60 days), you’re unemployed and you plan to look for a job soon, you receive welfare or government assistance, or you’ve been a victim of fraud or identity theft.

You must be told if your credit report is used against you.

If you apply for a credit-based product or service and you’re turned down because of information in your credit report, the business has to let you know the reason(s) you were denied, e.g. too many recent applications for credit. You’re also entitled to a free copy of the credit report used in the decision, but you have to request that copy in writing within 60 days.

You have the right to dispute inaccurate information.

If you find inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit report, you can dispute it with the credit bureau who has the inaccuracy. The credit bureau is then required to investigate your dispute with the information provider and correct your credit report if the information is inaccurate or can't be verified. You can also dispute directly with the creditor or business who added the error to your credit report.

You have the right to a timely credit report.

Certain negative information can only remain on your credit report for a certain length of time. For most negative accounts, that time limit is seven years. But, bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years. If negative information remains on your credit report after the time limit, you can use a credit report dispute to remove it.

You can view the credit score based on your credit report.

Your credit score is based directly on the information that’s in your credit report. While you don’t get a free credit score when you order your annual credit report, you still have the right to request a copy of your credit score. You can order your credit score from FICO or the credit bureaus for a fee, but there are some ways to get one for free, like through CreditKarma.com.

You can reject pre-screened offers based on your credit report.

If your mailbox is always packed with credit card offers, you can blame your credit report. Credit card issuers use your credit report to send offers that you may qualify for. But, you can stop these and other offers by opting-out of pre-screened offers with a visit to www.optoutprescreen.com or call to 1-888-5OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). You can always opt-in later if you decide you want to start receiving offers again, for example, to get a better credit card than the one you have.

You have the right to sue businesses that violate these rights.

If a credit bureau or another business violates your FCRA rights, you may be able to sue in Federal court for up to $1,000 or your actual damages. You can also complain to the FTC and your state Attorney General when credit bureaus and other businesses fail to comply with the FCRA.

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