An Overview of The Fair Credit Reporting Act: What it Does and How it Can Help You

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is basically the who, what, when, where, why, and how of an individual’s credit rights. It is an American; federal law which was most recently (2006) revised to include new methods of reporting and collection of information to keep up to date with new methods and technology.
Read more for how this important law protects you.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act governs how credit information can be collected, who may collect it, and how it may be used as well as providing specific consumer rights in an effort to keep the information private as well as provides for penalties for unlawfully obtaining or using an individual’s credit information.
How does this work for you?
First Credit Reporting Agencies, such as Equifax or TransUnion, or Experian contain databases of information. This information contains an individual’s name, address, telephone number, social security number, and date of birth. This information is gathered by two methods. First, whenever you apply for credit to use to make a purchase this information is furnished by you to the bank or financing agent you at applying to. The other way that credit reporting agencies obtain information is by being contacted by lending or financial institutions; such as a bank or credit card company with information about you. The financial institution reports to the agency your personal information, how much money, in the form of credit you borrowed, and provides a history of your payment arrangements and remaining balance. The database then passes this information onto the next financial institution that you apply to.
How and why is this information important?
First credit lenders look at this information to determine if you should have any more credit; if they should allow you to borrow any more money. Some employers may use this information to determine if you should be employed by them, especially if your position involves any responsibility with money.
Why is it important to have a federal act that protects your credit information?
First by having a federal act your information is protected the same way in every state. If there was no federal law, your personal information as well as items of financial responsibility may not be treated the same way. This could cause you problems with relocating to another state or city. Second, it is important that your personal and financial information be protected as completely as possible. If it is not then unscrupulous people may use that information to borrow money and not pay it back. .This non payment is then reported on your report making you look irresponsible as well as leaving you open to collectors, court proceedings and possibly even wage garnishments. A study conducted in 2004 found that 79% of credit reports contain errors or mistakes. You should check, I did and found 12 errors that needed to be corrected.
How does the Fair Credit Reporting Act protect you?
It protects you because it designates that only certain agencies may have a credit reporting database. This limits the access to your financial and personal information. It also provides you as a consumer with specific rights; such the ability to obtain a free credit report for your review, the rights to provide information to the credit agencies to dispute or disagree with any information that is incorrect on your credit report; the right to have these “mistakes” removed from your credit report; and the right to know why you may have been refused credit, such as obtaining a new credit card or purchasing a new house or car.
Lastly, the Fair Credit Reporting Act also designates the penalties, fines, and obligations for those that unlawfully use your personal, financial, and banking information for their own purposes.
While the Fair Credit Reporting Act contains many important rules and regulations and is the defining law for the protection of consumers it can not anticipate every situation. The use of technology as well as the wealth of information available about a person with the use of online banking, online bill paying, online purchases; saving your information online and the numerous credit offers in the mail there are too many opportunities for someone to attempt to gain your information. You need to be proactive to protect your credit and personal information. To do this obtain a copy of the act, read it and know your rights. Each year obtain a copy of your credit report and correct any errors. Make sure you know your rights and what you can do to protect yourself from damages to your credit or person.
To obtain a complete copy of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you may download it from the Federal Trade Commission website.
To obtain one free credit report per year you may request it by telephone, mail or through the government authorized website.

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