The Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA, is a rather lengthy and complicated piece of legislation that protects consumers from certain types of behavior by the credit reporting agencies, creditors and collection agencies. Below you will find the most important pieces of the legislation that have a direct impact on you as a consumer and may help you with future issues. One of the most important aspects of this act is the way creditors or collection agencies collect late or defaulted debt. Although a bit complicated the legislation requires creditors or collection agencies to follow strict rules when speaking with a consumer as it relates to the collection of debt. Any breach of these rules can lead to a fine of up to $1,000. per incident.
Harassment or abuse
A debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:
(1) The use or threat of use of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person.
(2) The use of obscene or profane language or language the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader.
(3) The publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a consumer reporting agency or to persons meeting the requirements of section 1681a(f) or 1681b(3)1 of this title.
(4) The advertisement for sale of any debt to coerce payment of the debt.
(5) Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.
(6) Except as provided in section 1692b of this title, the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.
False or misleading representations
A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:
(1) The false representation or implication that the debt collector is vouched for, bonded by, or affiliated with the United States or any State, including the use of any badge, uniform, or facsimile thereof.
(2) The false representation of —
(A) the character, amount, or legal status of any debt; or
(B) any services rendered or compensation which may be lawfully received by any debt collector for the collection of a debt.
(3) The false representation or implication that any individual is an attorney or that any communication is from an attorney.
(4) The representation or implication that nonpayment of any debt will result in the arrest or imprisonment of any person or the seizure, garnishment, attachment, or sale of any property or wages of any person unless such action is lawful and the debt collector or creditor intends to take such action.
(5) The threat to take any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken.
(6) The false representation or implication that a sale, referral, or other transfer of any interest in a debt shall cause the consumer to —
(A) lose any claim or defense to payment of the debt; or
(B) become subject to any practice prohibited by this subchapter.
(7) The false representation or implication that the consumer committed any crime or other conduct in order to disgrace the consumer.
(8) Communicating or threatening to communicate to any person credit information which is known or which should be known to be false, including the failure to communicate that a disputed debt is disputed.
(9) The use or distribution of any written communication which simulates or is falsely represented to be a document authorized, issued, or approved by any court, official, or agency of the United States or any State, or which creates a false impression as to its source, authorization, or approval.
(10) The use of any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a consumer.
(11) The failure to disclose in the initial written communication with the consumer and, in addition, if the initial communication with the consumer is oral, in that initial oral communication, that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose, and the failure to disclose in subsequent communications that the communication is from a debt collector, except that this paragraph shall not apply to a formal pleading made in connection with a legal action.
(12) The false representation or implication that accounts have been turned over to innocent purchasers for value.
(13) The false representation or implication that documents are legal process.
(14) The use of any business, company, or organization name other than the true name of the debt collector’s business, company, or organization.
(15) The false representation or implication that documents are not legal process forms or do not require action by the consumer.
(16) The false representation or implication that a debt collector operates or is employed by a consumer reporting agency as defined by section 1681a(f) of this title.
15 USC 1692f
A debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:
(1) The collection of any amount (including any interest, fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law.
(2) The acceptance by a debt collector from any person of a check or other payment instrument postdated by more than five days unless such person is notified in writing of the debt collector’s intent to deposit such check or instrument not more than ten nor less than three business days prior to such deposit.
(3) The solicitation by a debt collector of any postdated check or other postdated payment instrument for the purpose of threatening or instituting criminal prosecution.
(4) Depositing or threatening to deposit any postdated check or other postdated payment instrument prior to the date on such check or instrument.
(5) Causing charges to be made to any person for communications by concealment of the true purpose of the communication. Such charges include, but are not limited to, collect telephone calls and telegram fees.
(6) Taking or threatening to take any nonjudicial action to effect dispossession or disablement of property if —
(A) there is no present right to possession of the property claimed as collateral through an enforceable security interest;
(B) there is no present intention to take possession of the property; or
(C) the property is exempt by law from such dispossession or disablement.
(7) Communicating with a consumer regarding a debt by post card.
(8) Using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails or by telegram, except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have a right to:
- Access to Your Credit Report – The act requires credit reporting agencies to provide you with any information in your credit file upon request once a year. You must have proper identification. You have a right to a free copy of your credit report within 15 days of your request.
- Protected Access – The act limits access to your file to those with a valid need. That would usually be banks, insurance companies, employers, landlords or others doing business that involves offering credit. You also have the right to know who has requested your credit report in the last year or, for employment-related requests, two years.
- Accurate Reporting – If inaccurate information is discovered in your file, the consumer reporting agency must examine the disputed information, usually within 30 days. If the inaccurate information cannot be verified, the consumer reporting agency has a responsibility to remove it. If you are not able to clear up the matter, you are allowed to add a statement to your credit file explaining the situation.
- Have Outdated Information Removed – Negative information must be removed from your file after seven years. Bankruptcy, however, may remain on record for 10 years, and criminal record information can remain indefinitely.
- Maintain Medical Information Privacy – You are protected from having medical information in a consumer report, as creditors are prohibited from obtaining or using medical information when making a credit decision.
- Limit Unsolicited Credit Offers – The law allows you to request to have your name and address removed from unsolicited prescreened offer lists for credit and insurance. To opt out of such correspondence, call (888) 5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
- Protect Your Personal Account Numbers – Businesses are not permitted to publish full credit card numbers on receipts. The law also allows you to protect your Social Security number by having it truncated on your credit report.
- Receive Notification of Possible Negative Information – You have the right to be notified if any financial institution submits, or plans to submit, negative information to a credit reporting agency. This information may be included in a billing statement or a notice of default.
- Seek Damages – You have the right to sue and seek damages in a state or federal court from anyone, such as a consumer reporting agency or a user of consumer reports, who violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
- Know When Your Credit Report Is Used Against You – If you are denied credit, insurance or employment because of your credit report, you can ask for the specific reason for the denial.
- Know Your Credit Scores – You have a unique credit score with each credit bureau, which you can request. In some cases, you may be required to pay for this information.