Practice AreasFair Credit Reporting
Fair Debt Collection Practices
Fair Credit Reporting
Fair Credit Reporting
Protect Yourself: Know Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a law that seeks to encourage fairness, privacy and accuracy with respect to information contained in consumer reporting agency files, which includes not only credit bureau files, but also files at agencies that provide and sell information about consumers’ medical records, rental histories and check writing histories.
It is important for consumers to not only be aware of their rights under the FCRA, but to also know how to enforce those rights. The following information is provided to educate you, as a consumer, about a few of the rights contained in the Act.
Enforcing Your Rights
The FCRA provides consumers with several rights; however, in many cases individuals do not have legal standing to enforce those rights until they file a dispute with a credit bureau and the credit bureau or creditor fails to correct the report. It is important to speak with an attorney who can help you determine if consumer agencies or, in some instances, companies or individuals who use consumer reports or provide information to reporting agencies can be held legally responsible in a federal or state court of law for any violations under the FCRA.
The Federal Trade Commission notes consumers have a number of rights under the FCRA, including, but not limited to, the following:
- You are entitled to know what your file contains. Consumers are permitted to request and receive all information contained in files held by a consumer reporting agency. To obtain your information, you must provide adequate and appropriate identification, which might include proof of your Social Security number.
- You have the right to request your credit score. Credit bureaus provide consumers with numerical summaries known as credit scores that will give potential creditors an idea of one’s overall credit-worthiness. You will likely be required to pay for the score; however, certain transactions may include free score information, as in the case of some mortgage transactions.
- You have the right to dispute incorrect and/or incomplete information contained in your file. Many consumers are familiar with this aspect of their rights because they’ve likely seen it noted on copies of prior credit reports. It is important for you to inform the consumer reporting agency of any and all information that is not correct or incomplete. Once you advise them of the erroneous information, the agency is required, by law, to investigate (unless they deem the dispute to be frivolous).
- Once investigated, consumer reporting agencies are required to remove or correct any incomplete, incorrect or unverified information. The agency is required, usually within 30 days, to either remove or correct the disputed information. However, if the agency concludes the information is correct, it may continue to report it.
- Your file can only be accessed by those who need to know. Anyone seeking to obtain information contained in your file must demonstrate a legitimate, valid need. Such individuals or companies seeking access may include those considering credit applications, insurers, landlords and employers.
These are only a few of the many rights that exist for consumers under the FCRA. So, now that you’ve been informed of a few of the rights contained in the Act, how do you go about enforcing your rights and what you should do if you believe your rights have been violated?
If you believe your rights under FCRA have been violated, or if you have questions about your rights, contact Mary Higgins, Esq. at 302-894-4357 (letsbelegal.com).
Fair Debt Collection Practices
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Your Rights Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Many of us have consumer debt: credit cards, a car loan, a mortgage or medical bills, and we may know what it is like to fall behind on those bills. We may not know, however, that we have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that can protect us from harassing, threatening, and illegal behavior by debt collectors. (Business debts are not subject to the FDCPA.)
Before discussing the basic protections provided by the FDCPA, it is important to have a clear understanding of what debt collectors are. Debt Collectors are hired on commission to collect accounts. They may also purchase debts outright from creditors.
The initial contact between a collector and a debtor must include what is known as a "mini-Miranda" disclosure (alluding to the rights told to suspects when arrested, known as Miranda rights). Any oral or written communication must include language that the “communication is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.” All contact after the first must disclose that the call or letter is from a debt collector.
Within 5 days of initial contact, a debt collector must provide in writing: (1) the amount of the debt; (2) the name of the creditor; (3) a notice that unless the consumer disputes the validity of the debt within 30 days, the debt will be considered valid; and (4) that the consumer can request verification. All collection activities must cease during the validation process. The collector cannot take any action during the first 30 days that overshadows the consumer’s right to dispute the debt. If the debt collector does not provide the original creditor’s identity, the collection must cease.
After initial contact, the FDCPA continues to protect the debtor from overreaching, harassing, and illegal activities. Some of the most complained-about violations reported to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are:
1. Calling repeatedly to annoy/harass
2. Collecting unauthorized fees, interest, or expenses
3. Threatening dire consequences (arrest, property seizure)
4. Failing to identify debt collector
5. Calling at work after being told not to
6. Using abusive and/or obscene language
7. Calling third parties and revealing debt
8. Failing to verify a disputed debt
9. Calling before 8am and after 9pm
10. Threatening violence
Debts are private matters; not only is revelation to third parties a violation of the FDCPA, but communication that identifies the sender/caller as a debt collector or allows the contents to be read (e.g. postcards) is also a violation. Debts beyond their statute of limitations cannot be collected.
If you think a debt collector has violated the FDCPA, complete a CASE EVALUATION at www.letsbelegal.com, or call Mary Higgins (302-894-4357). You have one year to sue, and may be able to recover $1,000, plus actual damages. (This article is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. Your case should be reviewed by an attorney to determine the proper legal advice for your situation.)