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Identity theft can damage a person’s credit report and jeopardize their financial, professional, and personal well-being. Fortunately, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives consumers important legal protection for their financial information, including credit reports and credit scores. Here’s a closer look at five key provisions of the FCRA that assist consumers in the fight against identity theft.

1. Access to Free Credit Reports

Under the FCRA, each of the three major credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – must provide you with a current copy of your credit report at least once every 12 months. You may also be able to obtain additional free copies of your credit report through various products and services you’ve already purchased, such as through a credit monitoring service, bank account, credit card benefit, or financial advising service. Consumers should use their right to access free copies of their credit reports to look for any incorrect or suspicious entries which might signal that they’ve been the targets of identity theft. 

2. Right to Dispute Incomplete or Inaccurate Information

When you see incomplete, inaccurate, or suspicious information during a review of your credit report, the FCRA entitles you to file a dispute with the applicable credit reporting agency. The credit reporting agency must investigate a consumer’s dispute, which frequently involves forwarding the dispute to the institution that provided the information in question, such as a bank or loan company. If an agency acknowledges incorrect or incomplete information in your credit report, they must correct it promptly, usually within 30 days.

Disputing incorrect or suspicious information on your credit report can help you and your financial institutions identify potential incidents of identity theft that have affected your personal and financial information.

3. Right to Notice of Adverse Decisions Based on Your Credit File

Many entities, such as lenders, landlords, and employers, may access your credit report when evaluating your financial, housing, or employment applications. The FCRA requires these organizations to inform you when they’ve used information in your credit report to deny your application. Receiving an unexpected denial of an application can alert you to potentially incorrect or fraudulent information on your credit report, which can help you remain knowledgeable even after you’ve exhausted your free access to your credit report. 

4. Placing Restrictions on Access to Your Credit Reports

The FCRA protects you from identity thieves who might access your credit report to facilitate a scam. The law restricts access to your credit report to individuals and organizations who have a legitimate business need, including banks, financial service providers, employers, and landlords. However, in most cases, a party with a legitimate business need must first obtain your written permission to contact a credit reporting agency requesting a copy of your report.

5. Right to Implement Security Freezes

When you believe you may have suffered identity theft or have become a victim due to compromised personal or financial information, the FCRA allows you to contact credit reporting agencies requesting implementation of a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze prevents others from accessing your credit report, giving you time to address any erroneous information that may have resulted from the identity theft.

Contact a Consumer Protection Attorney Today to Learn More About How the FCRA Can Protect You from Identity Theft

If you have experienced identity theft or suspect one of your financial accounts was compromised by unauthorized access, the Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to protect yourself from or mitigate the effects. However, this is a complex process, and credit reporting agencies and financial institutions may not be forthcoming with the information you need or responsive to your situation.

An experienced consumer protection lawyer at Lehrman Law can help. Contact us today for a confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.