A credit report contains information
on where you work and live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve
been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Consumer Reporting Agencies
(CRAs) gather this information and sell it to creditors, employers, insurers,
and other businesses. The information may be used when you apply for credit,
housing, insurance, or a job.
The most common type of CRA
is the credit bureau. The three major national credit bureaus are:
The Fair Credit Reporting
Act controls how your credit history is kept, used and shared. It is designed
to promote accuracy and ensure the privacy of the information in credit
• Only people with a
legitimate business need can get a copy of your report.
• An employer or a prospective
employer can only get your report with your written consent.
• Creditors, employers,
or insurers need your approval to get any medical information.
Negative information concerning
your use of credit can be kept in your report for seven years. A bankruptcy
can be kept for ten years. Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment
against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations
runs out, whichever is longer.
Anyone who takes adverse action
against you such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or
employment in response to a credit report must give you the name, address,
and telephone number of the CRA that provided the report.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting
Act, you also have the right to:
• Know what is in your
credit report, including medical information and, usually, the sources
of the information.
• Get a free report
if a company takes adverse action against you based on the report and
you request your report within 60 days of receiving the notice of the
• One free report a
year if you can prove that you are unemployed and plan to look for a job
within 60 days; if you are on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate
because of fraud. Otherwise a CRA may charge you $9 for a copy of your
Your Rights: Getting
The Equal Credit Opportunity
Act protects you when dealing with anyone who regularly offers credit,
including banks, finance companies, stores, credit card companies and
credit unions. When you apply for credit, a creditor may not:
• ask about or consider
your sex, race, national origin or religion;
• ask about your marital
status or your spouse, unless you are applying for a joint account or
relying on your spouse’s income, or unless you live in a community
property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico,
Texas and Washington);
• ask about your plans
to have or raise children;
• refuse to consider
public assistance income or regularly received alimony or child support;
• discount or refuse
to consider income because of your sex or marital status or because it
is from part-time work or retirement benefits.
You also have the right to:
• have credit in your
birth name, your first name and your spouse’s last name, or your
first name and a combined last name;
• have a co-signer other
than your spouse if one is necessary;
• keep your own accounts
after you change your name or marital status or retire, unless the creditor
has evidence you are unable or unwilling to pay;
• know why a credit
application is rejected; the creditor must give you the specific reasons
or tell you of your right to find out the reasons if you ask within 60
• have accounts shared
with your spouse reported in both your names; and
• know how much it will
cost to borrow money.
The Truth in Lending Act requires
lenders to give you information on the cost and terms of credit so you
can compare different offers. The total finance charge is a dollar amount
that includes all interest and fees that must be paid to get a loan. The
annual percentage rate (APR) is the rate of interest paid over the term
of the loan.
A number of Federal, state
and local agencies regulate financial institutions. State chartered banks
and trust companies that are members of the Federal Reserve System are
covered by the Federal Reserve System. State chartered banks that are
not members of the Federal Reserve System are regulated by the Federal
Deposit Insurance Corporation. State chartered banks are also regulated
by state banking authorities. Banks with National in the name or N.A.
after the name are regulated by the Comptroller of the Currency, U.S.
Department of the Treasury. Federal savings and loans and Federal savings
banks are regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision. Federally chartered
credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration.