The Fair Credit Reporting Act

Credit Reports

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s credit reporting companies. The FTC enforces the FCRA with respect to these companies. Recent amendments to the FCRA expanded consumer rights and placed additional requirements on credit reporting companies. Businesses that provide information about consumers to credit reporting companies and businesses that use credit reports also have new responsibilities under the law.

FTC common questions

Do I have a right to know what’s in my report?

You have the right to know what’s on your report, but you have to ask for the information. The credit reporting company must tell you everything in your report and give you a list of everyone who has requested your report within the past year — or the past two years if the requests were related to employment.

What type of information do credit reporting companies collect and sell?

Credit reporting companies collect and sell four basic types of information:

  • Identification and employment information: Your name, birth date, Social Security number, employer and spouse’s name are noted routinely. The credit reporting company may provide information about your employment history, home ownership, income, and previous address if a creditor asks.
  • Payment history: Your accounts with different creditors are listed, showing how much credit has been extended and whether you’ve paid on time. Related events, such as the referral of an overdue account to a collection agency may be noted.
  • Inquiries: Credit reporting companies must maintain a record of all creditors who have asked for your credit history within the past year, and a record of individuals or businesses that have asked for your credit history for employment purposes for the past two years.
  • Public record information: Events that are a matter of public record, such as bankruptcies, foreclosures or tax liens may appear on your report.

Is there a charge for my report?

Under the Free File Disclosure Rule of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — are required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you ask for it.

What information do I have to provide to get my free report?

You need to provide your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth. If you have moved in the last 2 years, you may have to provide your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each credit reporting company may ask you for information that only you would know. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources.

Remember annual credit report is the only authorized online source for your free annual credit report from the 3 credit reporting companies. Neither the website nor the companies will call you to ask you if you’d like a credit report or ask you for your personal information.  Nor, will they send you an email asking for your personal information. If you get a phone call or an email — or see a pop-up ad — claiming it’s from (or any of the 3 credit reporting companies), it’s probably a scam

Are there other situations where I might be eligible for a free report?

Under federal law, you’re entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the credit reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft. Otherwise, any of the three credit reporting companies may charge you up to $10.50 for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.