Is someone else's information on your credit report? Are the credit bureaus failing to remove the mistakes? Federal law provides consumers with certain rights when there are inaccuracies on your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that was passed to promote accuracy, fairness, and the privacy of personal information collected by credit reporting agencies. The Fair Credit Reporting Act not only governs the collection of an individual’s personal information by credit reporting agencies, but also the use of that information by companies, such as employers conducting criminal background checks for employment. If inaccurate information shows up on an individual’s consumer report, the Fair Credit Reporting Act creates certain obligations for verifying and/or removing the inaccurate information from the consumer report. Further, there are specific processes employers must follow when making employment decisions based upon background checks of potential or current employees, including obtaining the proper consent to perform a background check, and providing appropriate notice to the individual if the individual was not hired because of information found in the background check.
There is a growing trend throughout the country of consumers who cannot get the credit bureaus to remove errors on their credit reports. Consumers are basically stuck with two options: (1) accept the errors, or (2) hire an attorney to file a lawsuit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act against the credit bureaus. The most common errors involve a “mixed file” as they are known in the credit industry. Mixed files most frequently involve people who share common names with individuals who have similar Social Security numbers, birth dates or addresses. Files often become mixed because of the computer programs that the credit bureaus use to match credit data to a specific consumer’s credit report. The programs allow credit data, such as a late payment on a credit card, a bankruptcy judgment or a criminal record, to be inserted into the wrong consumer’s file. For example, a bankruptcy judgment against John Smith, Sr. is erroneously applied to the credit report of John Smith, Jr. The credit bureaus’ process for addressing mixed files is largely automated, with the credit bureaus often outsourcing disputes daily to workers who are unable or unwilling to correct a mixed file credit report. Unfortunately, consumers often will be denied credit (such as a mortgage or car loan application) or a job as a result of a mistake on the credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the credit bureaus to provide maximum possible accuracy in their credit reports and to perform a reasonable investigation when a consumer reports an error. More often than not, the credit bureaus meet neither one of these legal obligations, resulting in violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Despite recent judgments awarding consumers large damages awards, the credit bureaus appear willing to tolerate violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act as a cost of doing business, rather than change their business practices. Some examples of violations include:
- Mixing credit information of multiple consumers;
- Failing to report a discharged debt in bankruptcy;
- Reporting information older than 7 years;
- Reporting old debts as new;
- Reporting a debt which was settled;
- Applying late fees to debts paid on time;
- Supplying credit information despite reported identity theft;
- Failing to correct inaccurate information on a consumer’s file (such as a criminal record).
It is a good idea to regularly review your credit report to see if any inaccuracies or problems exist. If the credit bureaus refuse to remove inaccurate information from your credit report, then you should contact Sadlowski & Besse L.L.C. Our firm has considerable knowledge of the credit industry, and we can assist you in exercising your legal rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
We are conveniently located in Blue Ash, which is an easily accessible suburb of Cincinnati, OH.