Consumer reporting agencies (also known as credit reporting agencies or CRAs) compile consumer data primarily for use by “users.” Users are entities that access a consumer’s information to gain insight into the consumer’s past behavior including prior use of credit (payment history and type of credit accessed), criminal history for a job application, or tenant history in the case of housing. In the credit context, users rely upon these “consumer reports” to decide if the consumer is a high or low risk borrower for a variety of consumer transactions such as auto purchases, home loans, and credit cards.
Critically, however, consumers have a right to access that data as well. Several circumstances trigger the credit bureau’s duty to provide a consumer with a copy of his or her complete credit file.
Free Consumer Acquired Reports:
- Upon a consumer’s request, the three nationwide CRAs (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) must provide the consumer with a free credit report once every twelve months. The centralized source for such requests is www.annualcreditreport.com. A consumer can also obtain their credit score (for a fee) either at the time of the credit report request or at a later date as desired.
- Note that many websites offer”free” credit reports that are anything but free. They may try to sell you other unneeded services.
- If a user takes adverse action against a consumer based on information in the consumer’s credit report, the consumer is entitled to a free credit report from the CRA in question. The potential creditor must communicate to the consumer that the latter may obtain information regarding the reasons for the adverse action.
- Furthermore, under the amendments to the FCRA, the creditor must provide the credit score along with the adverse action or risk-based notice.
- If an employer takes adverse action based even in part on a consumer report, the employer must provide the consumer report to the employee.
- Mortgage lenders who use the credit scores for applications for residential real estate-secured credit must provide the credit score and other factors used.
15 USC § 1681g(g)(1)(A).
After a Fraud Notice:
- When a consumer informs a nationwide credit reporting agency that there has been fraud related to their identity or their consumer reporting file, they have the right to a free credit report either when the fraud suspicion is reported or when the consumer submits a proof of identity and a report already submitted to a law enforcement agency regarding the fraud. The reporting agency then sets up a fraud alert in the consumer’s file and must provide two reports upon request in the twelve months after the alert is triggered.