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Chapter 5: Consumer Rights and Identity Theft

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
Credit bureaus must comply with the FCRA. This law is designed to promote accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in your credit file:

  • 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  • Derogatory information that is outdated or unverifiable cannot be reported.
  • While lenders and insurers may use the information in your credit file to market their products, you have the right to opt out of these offers by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).
  • 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.
  • Employers and prospective employers can only access your report with your written consent.
  • You can seek damages in a court of law if the FCRA is violated.

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act
The FACT Act amends the FCRA and is an important tool in the fight against identity theft. It gives you many powerful rights:

  • 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. The initial alert lasts 90 days but can be extended for up to seven years if you have filed a police report. Creditors must ensure that all credit requests are legitimate after a credit report has been flagged.
  • Active duty military personnel may place special alerts 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.

If a creditor or credit bureau violates one of these laws, you can submit a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

 

Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. Thieves often use the information they steal to get credit cards or other types of credit. There are several ways you can thwart identity theft and protect your credit report:

  • Only share personal information with reputable sources. Be wary of any organization or person that initiates contact with you. When someone calls you, the safest thing to do is disconnect and call the company back at a verified number.
  • When shopping on-line, make sure your information is being transmitted on a secure site. Look for a closed lock on the status bar and web address that starts with https.
  • Don’t leave your mail and trash vulnerable. Shred all documents that have an account number or your Social Security number on them.
  • Review your credit card and checking account statements each month to ensure that all transactions are accurate. If you get strange bills in the mail for accounts that you have not opened, don’t just throw them away – contact the company and report it.
  • Check your credit report periodically to make sure all of the accounts and balances are yours.

If you become the victim of identity theft, being proactive can minimize its impact on you. If a credit card or checking account has been used or opened illegally, contact your creditor or financial institution immediately. They should close accounts that are not yours and change the account numbers and passwords for accounts that are yours. Monitor all future statements carefully for evidence of new fraud. You may also want to report the identity theft to the police. Be sure to request a copy of the police report – a credit bureau or creditor may require you to provide one to investigate and remove fraudulent information. Check your credit report and dispute any fraudulent items. Remember, you can also place a fraud alert on your report.


Resources

Please note: since contact information can periodically change, confirm addresses before sending a letter containing personal information.

  • Equifax
    PO Box 740241
    Atlanta, GA 30374
    (800) 685-1111 (to order credit report)
    (888) 766-0008 (to report fraud)
    www.equifax.com

  • Experian
    PO Box 2104
    Allen, TX 75013
    888-397-3742
    www.experian.com

  • TransUnion
    PO Box 2000
    Chester, PA 19022
    (800) 888-4213 (to order credit report)
    (800) 680-7289 (to report fraud)

    www.transunion.com

  • Annual Credit Report Request Service
    PO Box 105281
    Atlanta, GA 30348
    (877) 322-8228
    www.annualcreditreport.com

  • Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO)
    (800) 319-4433
    www.myfico.com
  • National Tenant Network
    PO Box 1664
    Lake Oswego, OR 97035
    (800) 228-0989
    www.ntnonline.com
  • Federal Trade Commission
    600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
    Washington, DC 20580
    (877) 382-4357
    www.ftc.gov
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