The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), passed in 1970 and amended multiple times since, regulates the collection and use of consumer credit information. Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the FCRA provides certain rights to consumers related to their credit. The FCRA rights are minimums; if your state law provides more rights, then those apply.

* You are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report once a year from any credit bureau.

  1. * Anyone who uses information from your credit report to take adverse action against you (e.g., deny your request for credit, turn you down for a job) must tell you that they did so, and must provide you the name and contact information for the credit bureau that supplied the information to them.

* You have the right to dispute with the credit bureau anything on your credit report that you believe to be inaccurate. The credit bureau must investigate any non-frivolous such dispute, usually within 30 days. If they find that it is indeed inaccurate, they are required to remove or change the information on the report.

* In most cases, credit bureaus cannot report negative information about you that is more than seven years old, except bankruptcies, which can remain on the report for ten years.

* The information on your credit report is confidential, and may only be reported to those with a valid need to see it, which would normally be someone considering a request for credit, insurance, employment, rental, etc. In most cases, even those parties will need your written consent. (Thus when you apply for a job or apply to rent an apartment, your prospective employer or landlord will have you sign a form consenting to their pulling your credit.)

* You may limit the misleading “prescreened” or “preapproved” offers of credit and insurance that have become so common in recent years. All those who send such unsolicited items must provide a toll free number you can call to have your name taken off the lists these offers are based on if you choose.

* You have the right to sue and receive damages if you are harmed as a result of a violation of the FCRA by a credit bureau or by someone who provides information to or uses information from a credit bureau.

In addition to the above, there are additional provisions that apply specifically to active duty military personnel and to victims of identity theft.