Do you want to protect your assets and finances as best you can?
As technology progresses, so does our way of life. Our way of life is now technology-centric, from communication to e-commerce. However, despite its benefits, technology can also come with various weaknesses.
When it comes to protecting confidential data, your credit history should be top of the list. These records affect your ability to make financial decisions and find employment. If you want to know what legal options you have available to you, read our guide below.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is also known as FCRA. It’s been around since 1970, but it’s still one of the most important federal laws today. The FCRA ensures that consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) are always in check.
CRA violations aren’t uncommon, but such mistakes can have a significant impact. Know that there is a lot riding on the accuracy of your credit report and history. It can affect your lease, employment, and other future dealings.
By enforcing rules on the accessing and handling of your report, the FCRA upholds your rights. Complaints and slights against this are always taken seriously. They can even result in lawsuits and court intervention.
There are two federal agencies that govern and regulate the FCRA. These are the FTC and the CFPB. Along with the FCRA, they go a long way in offering consumer protection at the federal level.
Who’s Allowed to Know Your Credit History?
Depending on where you live, your state might have specific laws that work in line with the act. However, these don’t change the overall premise of who can have access to your report. On a broader spectrum, institutions related to the government and insurance can request access.
The same goes for lenders, creditors, and employers – past and present. Your landlords and utility companies can also ask for it. Those with court orders, often related to the IRS, can also access your report.
All these entities can use your records to make informed decisions on if you qualify for things. Examples include a car loan or financing at the dealership, or getting a mortgage from the bank. Your boss or the company you’re applying for will also check these records before hiring you.
The outcome of your financial decisions and your future ride on these records. If you suspect that unauthorized people are attempting to gain access, then you need to be ready. Not every institution requires your credit history.
Predatory lenders might ask for more than they need to know. If an unauthorized institution asks you for your records, take the time to research if they need them. If you’re notified or become aware of an unnecessary request, take action.
Dispute letters are legal ways to let the credit bureau know they messed up. You need to draft such a letter to get the bureau to fix mistakes on your record. Inaccurate credit history could affect you, so it’s better to fix these now rather than later.
Drafting and sending one yourself is doable, but it’s not a bad idea to get legal help. Depending on the jurisdiction the dispute letter is only the opening salvo. They don’t want you to jump straight to filing a lawsuit, as this would involve lots of resources.
In fact, some courts will dismiss suits that didn’t send a dispute letter first. If the credit bureau doesn’t respond in a timely manner, then you have grounds to sue. That said, you have to write the dispute letter correctly.
You should provide all the necessary details, including documentation. Copies of your signature also help, especially if contesting identity theft. Finally, be as open to communication with the credit bureau as possible.
There are two things you want to accomplish in your dispute letter. After establishing the credibility of your case, show you’ve been open to resolving the issue with the bureau.
If you’ve shown your willingness to cooperate and they still ignore your issue, then you can go to court. You could also make the case that the mistakes or delay in resolving the situation caused you harm.
You Can Sue
Assuming the dispute letter has failed or you don’t need one based on your area, the next step is a legal battle. It’s recommended you talk to lawyers to plan your strategy and determine your damages. The Financial Justice Initiative is a great option.
There are two main types of violations you can target – willful and negligent. Willful violations refer to when institutions break FCRA rules.
If you go for statutory damages, you don’t have to prove how the violation harmed you, but you’ll likely only get $100-$1,000. If you and your legal team feel you can prove the actual damages, then there’s no set limit to how high the court could go. If someone lied to get your info or used it for a non-authorized purpose, you could get $1,000 flat.
The other alternative is punitive damages, which the court will decide upon. A negligent violation is, as the name suggests. It’s the route you should take if you can prove the entity handling your info was careless.
They have a legal obligation to follow FCRA rules and protect your data. With negligence, you’re likely only to get the damages you can prove. In both types of violations, however, you could get your legal fees awarded.
Be Serious, Not Frivolous
Issues with your credit score and history can have life-changing consequences. You need to follow the proper steps in challenging institutions that put your info at risk.
There are penalties for wasting the court or legal system’s time, so it’s important you plan. Gather all your documents and evidence, hire a reputable lawyer, and file a dispute letter. Most of all, listen to the legal advice your lawyer gives you, and only go to court if you can win.
To get the most damages awarded to you, you need to be able to prove that the CRA or other entity made a mistake. You need evidence they mishandled your confidential data or didn’t live up to their FCRA obligations.
Legally Protect Your Confidential Data
Protecting confidential data like your credit history is straightforward. The FCRA provides the legal set of obligations that you can hold CRAs and other entities to. By knowing how it works and how to communicate with and sue CRAs, you can protect yourself.
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