By Maureen Busch, VP, Compliance and CRA Officer
You’ve heard it many times: It’s important to maintain good credit. It’s a basic financial best practice. But, regardless of how diligent you are in protecting your credit, things like data breaches, identify theft and credit reporting errors can and do happen.
Fortunately, you are not powerless to any of these events. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) includes numerous consumer protections, such as your right to obtain a copy of your consumer report from each consumer reporting agency (CRA) annually and your right to dispute any inaccurate information. Additionally, certain CRAs, such as Equifax, Experian and Transunion, are required under the FCRA to provide you with your annual report free of charge. And, while it’s not a requirement, you are encouraged to order your own personal report annually.
For the three major consumer reporting agencies (i.e., Equifax, Experian and Transunion), you can order your free report at www.annualcreditreport.com. Though these reports do not include credit scores or credit monitoring services (as those generally involve fees), they do include all the information the respective CRA has on file for you. Note: Due to COVID-19, you can order your free weekly online report through April 2021.
Once you receive your consumer report (credit report), be sure to review it closely. Should you find any information to be inaccurate or incomplete, you have the right under the FCRA to dispute the information directly with the CRA (or party that provided the information to the CRA) and they have an obligation to investigate your dispute free of charge.
While Equifax, Experian and Transunion are the most widely known CRAs, there are many consumer reporting companies and each is required to provide you with a free copy of your consumer report upon request. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) publishes an annual list of consumer reporting companies. The document is an excellent resource; it not only includes the names, descriptions and contact information of consumer reporting companies, it also provides information about which types of companies may be important to you, as well as how to exercise your rights under the FCRA.
Example of CRAs included in the CFPB’s list of CRAs:
Click here to access the CFPB’s list for 2020.
In addition to consumer reporting resources, the CFPB’s website offers many useful tools and tips, on everything from paying for college to planning for retirement, as well as guidance for avoiding fraud and scams, and more. The Bureau also provides financial education information through social media.
About the Author:
Maureen Busch serves as the Vice President, Compliance and CRA Officer at The Bank of Tampa. Additionally, she serves on the CFPB’s Community Bank Advisory Council, where Director Kathleen Kraninger and Bureau staff keep the council abreast of educational resources available and financial literacy initiatives, such as Start Small, Save Up. The CFPB is passionate about encouraging consumers to create, maintain and grow savings accounts as part of their overall financial well-being.
This article originally appeared on The Bank of Tampa’s website. To read more about The Bank of Tampa, visit: thebankoftampa.com/news