Understanding the Fair Credit Reporting Act

Understanding the Fair Credit Reporting Act
April 11, 2023

As a consumer, knowing your rights and protections under the law regarding credit reporting is crucial. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates consumer credit information as a federal law. For example, it presides over collecting, dissemination, and use by consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). In this article, we will explain the key provisions of the FCRA and how it affects you.

What is the FCRA?

Lawmakers enacted the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 1970. They meant for the law to promote accuracy, fairness, and privacy involving consumer credit information. This law also applies to CRAs compiling and maintaining consumer files. Examples of CRAs include credit bureaus, tenant screening companies, and employment background check companies. The FCRA sets standards for collecting, using, and disclosing consumer credit information. It also has regulations concerning the procedures for disputing errors and obtaining a free credit report.

Your Rights under the FCRA

As a consumer, you have certain rights under the FCRA designed to protect your privacy and ensure the accuracy of your credit information. Some of the key rights include:

  • The right to know what information appears in your credit file: The FCRA entitles you to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).
  • The right to dispute errors in your credit report: If you find errors or inaccuracies in your credit report, you have the right to dispute them with the credit bureau and the company that furnished the information.
  • The right to limit access to your credit report: You can restrict access to your credit report by placing a security freeze or fraud alert on your credit file.
  • The right to sue for violations of the FCRA: You can sue for damages if a CRA, creditor, or other entity violates your rights under the FCRA.

What is Covered by the FCRA?

The FCRA covers a wide range of consumer credit information, including:

  • Credit reports: The FCRA sets standards for the accuracy and completeness of credit reports and the procedures for investigating disputes.
  • Employment background checks: The FCRA regulates the use of credit information in employment decisions. It also requires employers to obtain consent before conducting a background check.
  • Tenant screening reports: The FCRA requires landlords and property managers to obtain consent before obtaining a tenant screening report. As such, it sets standards for the accuracy and completeness of the information.
  • Medical information: The FCRA regulates the use of medical information in credit reports; it has special procedures for handling medical information.

How to Protect Your Rights under the FCRA

It is crucial to protect your rights under the FCRA. Here are some tips to help you act proactively and maintain vigilance:

  • Review your credit report regularly: Check it at least once a year to ensure its accuracy.
  • Dispute errors promptly: If you find errors in your credit report, dispute them with the credit bureau and the company that furnished the information.
  • Monitor your credit report: Consider signing up for credit monitoring services. This service will send alerts of any changes to your credit report.
  • Be cautious with your personal information: Protect your Social Security Number, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information from identity theft.


The FCRA is a crucial federal law protecting your consumer rights. It regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer credit information. Understanding your rights under the FCRA and taking proactive steps to protect your credit information can ensure that your credit report stays accurate. Staying vigilant also protects your privacy. Consult a qualified attorney or consumer advocate if you have questions or concerns about the FCRA.

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