Monday, April 30, 2012

Fair Credit Reporting: Accuracy Obligations of the CRBs

The Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA") is a federal law that sets rules and guidelines that Credit Reporting Bureaus ("CRBs") a/k/a Consumer Reporting Agencies ("CRAs") must follow when reporting on the credit of a consumer.  Some well known CRBs are Equifax, Transunion and Experian.  Not only does the FCRA impose liability (see: fault) on CRAs for reporting faulty information, it further requires that CRAs utilize reasonable procedures to ensure maximum possible accuracy of the information in a report.

All of this legalese means that you, the consumer, have a right to an accurate and correct credit report.  If you suspect that there is a false information on your credit report, this is what you should do:
  1. Obtain a copy of your credit report.  This can be done for free once per year from each of the three major bureaus.  Annual Credit Report Again, this is free.
  2. Determine which bureau is reporting the false information - it could be one or all three.
  3. Send a dispute letter in writing to the appropriate CRB.
    • Send the letter certified - keep a copy of the proof of service.
    • Do not email this letter.
    • Identify as much information as you can about the false information within the letter (i.e. your name, address, account numbers, etc.)
    • Enclose a copy of your report with the bad information on it.
    • Allow 30 days for a response from the CRB.
    • Send the letter certified - keep a copy of the proof of service!!!

If the CRB fails to properly conduct an investigation into the bogus item on your report, they might be liable for damages to you.

Remember that the FCRA is a federal statute which provides protection for consumers from inaccurate information.  This means that the information must be false.  Accurate reports of delinquent payment history - no matter how frustrating - do not create liability.

The source, cause and or reason for a mistake in a consumer credit report can be very difficult to determine.   You should never assume that a faulty piece of information creates liability on the part of the CRB.  Furthermore, a large factor in assessing a claim brought under the FCRA is the amount of damages (financial, emotional and other types of harm) caused to the affected consumer. 

If you have been significantly harmed by false information contained within your credit report, it is in your best interests to consult with an attorney experienced with the FCRA and consumer protection laws.  For more information please visit the following websites:

Federal Trade Commission

National Association of Consumer Advocates

Attorney Mark A. Laws