As a consumer in our society, we often come against problems with a business that doesn’t care about treating customers with any respect. They use and abuse the ones who make the business successful and have no remorse. That is why we have laws to protect consumers from unethical treatment by big businesses.
As one person, you can feel like you don’t stand a chance in a battle for your rights. Often we don’t even know what our rights as consumers are. We take the blame and pay bills we don’t owe to protect our credit rating. Then we end up blaming our own naivety rather than fighting for our rights as a consumer.
Knowing how to fight for your rights begins with knowing what they are. Let’s take a look at our consumer rights in the United States.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act
If you are harassed by a creditor, you have rights under this act that allow you to keep the information in your file accurate and up to date. It gives you the right to request that companies reinvestigate any inaccurate information or update information that may be too old to be reported.
You must be told if information in your file has been used against you.
Anyone who uses a credit report or another type of consumer report to deny your application for credit, insurance, or employment – or to take another adverse action against you – must tell you, and must give you the name, address, and phone number of the agency that provided the information.
You have the right to know what is in your file.
You can request your free file disclosure every week during the covid epidemic or until April of 2021 from each nationwide credit bureau at AnnualCreditReport.com. You are also entitled to a free file disclosure anytime:
someone takes adverse action against you because of info in your credit report
you are the victim of identity theft and place a fraud alert in your file
your file contains inaccurate information as a result of fraud
you are on public assistance
you are unemployed but expect to apply for employment within 60 days
You have the right to ask for a credit score.
Credit scores are numerical summaries of your credit-worthiness based on information from credit bureaus. If you join a site such as CreditKarma, you can always have a rough estimate of your score for free. Some banks and budget software also include free credit scores.
If you buy a house, your mortgage lender will let you know your exact score. If you want to order the exact number, you can buy the information from each of the 3 major credit reporting agencies.
You have the right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information.
If you identify information in your file that is incomplete or inaccurate, and report it to the consumer reporting agency, the agency must investigate unless your dispute is frivolous. See consumerfinance.gov for an explanation of dispute procedures.
Consumer reporting agencies must correct bad information.
Inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information must be removed or corrected, usually within 30 days. However, a consumer reporting agency may continue to report information it has verified as accurate.
Consumer reporting agencies can’t report outdated information.
In most cases, a consumer reporting agency may not report negative information that is more than seven years old, or bankruptcies that are more than 10 years old.
Access to your file is limited.
A consumer reporting agency may provide information about you only to people with a valid need – usually to consider an application with a creditor, insurer, employer, landlord, or other business. The FCRA specifies those with a valid need for access.
You must give your consent for reports to be provided to employers.
A consumer reporting agency may not give out information about you to your employer, or a potential employer, without your written consent given to the employer. Written consent generally is not required in the trucking industry.
You may limit “prescreened” offers of credit and insurance.
Unsolicited “prescreened” offers for credit and insurance must include a toll-free phone number you can call if you choose to remove your name and address from the lists these offers are based on.
You may opt out for 5 years at www.optoutprescreen.com or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT. To opt out permanently follow the instructions at the site to send in your signature.
You have the right to obtain a security freeze.
You have a right to place a “security freeze” on your credit report, which will prohibit a consumer reporting agency from releasing information in your credit report without your express authorization.
The security freeze is designed to prevent credit, loans, and services from being approved in your name without your consent.
However, you should be aware that using a security freeze to take control over who gets access to the personal and financial information in your credit report may delay, interfere with, or prohibit the timely approval of any subsequent request or application you make regarding a new loan, credit, mortgage, or any other account involving the extension of credit.
You have the right to place a fraud alert on your credit file.
As an alternative to a security freeze, you have the right to place an initial or extended fraud alert on your credit file at no cost. An initial fraud alert is a 1-year alert that is placed on a consumer’s credit file.
Upon seeing a fraud alert display on a consumer’s credit file, a business is required to take steps to verify the consumer’s identity before extending new credit. If you are a victim of identity theft, you are entitled to an extended fraud alert, which is a fraud alert lasting 7 years.
A security freeze does not apply to a person or entity, or its affiliates, or collection agencies acting on behalf of the person or entity, with which you have an existing account that requests information in your credit report for the purposes of reviewing or collecting the account.
Reviewing the account includes activities related to account maintenance, monitoring, credit line increases, and account upgrades and enhancements.
You may seek damages from violators.
If a consumer reporting agency, or, in some cases, a user of consumer reports or a furnisher of information to a consumer reporting agency violates the FCRA, you may be able to sue in state or federal court.
Identity theft victims and active military personnel have additional rights.
Corrupt Businesses are the Problem
It is true that we have some responsibility as consumers to be careful about what we buy, but more often than not, a company that is treating us unfairly has the burden of responsibility. If a company is charging you for something you did not buy or harassing you with threats that they lawfully cannot back up, they are the ones in the wrong.
Don’t take the responsibility and the financial hit for issues that you did not create.
There is help dealing with these kinds of unethical businesses. An experienced and knowledgeable consumer protection attorney understands your rights and how to get compensation for your financial pain and trouble. It is your right to sue the company that is abusing their authority to hurt you.
Consumer Rights Attorneys are successfully winning courtroom battles against big businesses across the country who step on consumer rights. The attorneys at LawZebra work with clients nationwide dealing with consumer rights violations. We are experienced and ready to walk you through the process of finding justice.