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Chapter 4: Federal Laws

There are many federal laws that help in the fight against identity theft.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

  • If you are denied credit, insurance, or employment because of what is in your credit report, you may get a free report from the bureau that supplied it within 60 days.
  • You have a right to dispute any inaccuracies on your credit report. The credit bureaus must investigate the validity of disputed items within 30 days (under most circumstances).
  • Derogatory information that is outdated or unverifiable cannot be reported.
  • Only those with a need recognized by the FCRA (usually a creditor, insurer, employer, landlord, or other business who is evaluating an application from you) may access your file.

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act

  • You may receive a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year.
  • You may receive additional free reports if identity theft is suspected.
  • You may block fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report.
  • You have a right to access business records, such as credit applications, that document an identity thief’s fraudulent transactions.
  • You have a right to place a fraud alert on your credit report if you believe you have been the victim of identity theft.Creditors must ensure that all credit requests are legitimate after a credit report has been flagged.
  • Active duty military personnel may place a special alert on their files when they are deployed overseas.
  • No more than five digits of a credit card number may be listed on store receipts. The card's expiration date cannot be listed either.
  • Creditors must implement identity theft prevention programs.
  • Debt collectors must inform a creditor of fraudulent information.

Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA)

  • Liability for a lost or stolen credit card is limited to $50 if you notify the card issuer within 30 days.
  • If there has been an error in a credit card bill, the lender must correct it, or explain why the amount is believed correct, within 90 days after being notified. (You must send the notification within 60 days of the bill containing the error being sent to you.)

The Electronic Fund Transfer Act

  • You have 60 days to dispute an error in a checking or savings account statement. The financial institution must respond with 45 days (in most cases). Any disputed funds must be put back into your account within 10 business days.
  • The maximum liability for a lost or stolen debit or ATM card is:
    • $50 if you report it within 2 business days of noticing the card is lost or stolen.
    • $500 if you report it after 2 business days but within 60.
    • No limit if you wait more than 60 days – you can lose all of the money in your account plus, if applicable, your maximum overdraft line of credit.
    • Note: Many financial institutions provide protections greater than what is required by the law.

If a creditor or credit bureau violates one of these laws, you can submit a complaint with your state’s attorney general’s office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Violations involving a checking or savings account can be reported to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for national banks, the Federal Reserve Board for state banks that report to them, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for other banks, the National Credit Union Administration for federal credit unions, and state financial supervisory board for state credit unions.

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