AOH :: FS6.TXT|
How Private is your credit report?
Fact Sheet No. 6
**How Private Is My Credit Report?**
November 1992; Rev'd. June 1993, April 1994
Copyright 1992, 1993, 1994 Center for Public Interest Law
This copyrighted document may be copied and distributed for nonprofit,
educational purposes only. The text of this document may not be
altered without express authorization of the Privacy Rights
This fact sheet should be used as an information source and not as
legal advice. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse materials are designed
primarily for California residents. Laws in other states may vary.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
The Center for Public Interest Law
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 260-4753 (fax)
Hotline: +1 800-773-7748 (Calif. only)
**How Private Is My Credit Report?**
Credit reports are a gold mine of information about consumers.
They contain Social Security numbers, addresses, credit payment
status, employment, even legal information. To address concerns
about who has access to this potentially sensitive information,
California recently passed a law which enhances consumers'
privacy rights. The credit bureaus have also adopted voluntary
guidelines to improve consumer services.
**What is in my credit report?**
Your credit report is actually a credit history. It is created by
reports from many different sources. Firms which have granted you
credit make regular reports about your accounts to the credit
bureaus. If you are late in making payments, those to whom you
owe money such as utilities, hospitals, landlords and others may
report this information to the credit bureaus. Your bank may also
inform the credit bureaus if you overdraw your account.
In addition, your credit report contains your name and any name
variations, your address, Social Security number and employment
information. Your legal record may also be included in your
credit report, including marriage, divorce, liens, bankruptcy and
other matters of public record.
**Is there anything that cannot be in my credit report?**
Certain pieces of personal information cannot be in your credit
o Medical information (unless you give your consent).
o Adverse information, including bankruptcy, that is more
than 10 years old.
o Debts that are more than seven years old.
o If the report has been requested by a prospective or
current employer, information about age, marital
status, or race cannot be included.
**Who has access to my report?**
Anyone with a "legitimate business need" can gain access to your
credit history, including:
o Those considering granting you credit.
o Insurance companies.
o Employers and potential employers.
Some companies known as information brokers or "super bureaus"
buy credit reports in bulk and then re-sell them. Super bureaus
are regulated by California credit reporting laws and must tell
the credit bureau who is the ultimate recipient of the file. This
is to make sure the report is used for permissible purposes.
Your credit report is also used for marketing purposes. Credit
bureaus frequently release information from individual credit
files to companies that offer "pre-approved" credit cards or
other lines of credit. In California any company which accesses
your credit report to obtain information in order to solicit
offers of credit must disclose that practice to you; the company
must also notify you of your right to prohibit further such use
of your credit report. See below for the telephone numbers to
call to be removed from these lists. (See also Privacy Rights
Clearinghouse Fact Sheet No. 4, "Junk Mail: How Did They All Get
Federal and state laws provide consumers with these privacy
o California law requires credit bureaus to allow you to "opt
out" of pre-approved credit offers. The credit bureaus must
provide a toll-free number you can call to ask to be removed
from these lists. You may also notify the credit bureaus in
writing. To have your name removed from lists sold to credit
grantors and marketers, contact the three major credit
reporting companies as follows:
o TRW Telephone: (800) 353-0809
Mail Preference Service, 701 TRW Parkway, Allen, TX
o Equifax Options Telephone: (800) 219-1251
Marketing Decision Systems, P.O.Box 740123, Atlanta, GA
o Trans Union Telephone: (800) 241-2858
555 West Adams St., 8th Floor, Chicago, IL 60661.
o State law also says that if your credit report is used for
employment purposes, you must be notified in writing and
offered a free copy of your report.
o You have the right to know who has inquired about your
credit file or requested your report over the last six
months. Inquirers' names are listed on your credit report.
o In California, if you have voluntarily closed a credit card
account, your credit report must indicate the fact that the
account was closed *by the consumer*.
**How can I find out what is in my credit report?**
At your request, credit bureaus must provide you with a copy of
your own credit report. You can obtain a copy of your credit
report by contacting each of the three major credit bureaus: TRW,
Equifax and Trans Union.
TRW will give you one free copy of your credit report per year.
There may be a fee for ordering your report from Equifax and
Trans Union. However, California law requires the charge to be no
more than $8. If you have been denied credit based on information
in your report, the credit bureau must provide you with a free
copy upon request.
To find out how to obtain a copy of your report call:
o TRW (800) 392-1122
o Equifax (800) 685-1111
o Trans Union (800) 851-2674
After the credit bureau receives your request, California law
requires it to mail a copy of your report to you within five
**How will I know if there is negative information in my
In the past if your credit report contained negative information,
you probably would not find out about it until you were turned
down for credit or ordered a copy of your report. Now, a new
state law requires that creditors tell you before putting
negative information into your file. After you have been
notified, however, the creditor may report additional negative
information about that transaction or line of credit without
giving you any further warning.
If you disagree with a creditor's report of negative information,
the creditor must put a notice of that dispute in your file,
before reporting to the credit bureau.
**What can I do if there are errors in my report?**
Credit bureaus are regulated under the California Consumer Credit
Reporting Agencies Act (California Civil Code section 1785 et.
seq.) and the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 USC 1681 et.
seq.). These laws specify that you have a right to have errors
corrected. National credit bureaus must have a toll free number
for you to contact them with your questions. Also, credit reports
must provide an address to request an investigation of inaccurate
Once you have notified a credit bureau of your dispute,
California law allows 30 business days for an investigation. The
bureau must consider all the relevant evidence you give it, and
errors must be corrected. If you ask the credit bureau to do so,
it must send a corrected report to anyone who has requested your
file in the past six months and to anyone who has requested it in
the last two years in relation to employment.
If you disagree with the result of the credit bureau's
investigation, you have the right to submit a 100-word
explanation of the discrepancy. The credit bureau must include
that information in your file.
Some consumers who have had errors corrected find the incorrect
information reappears in their files at a later date. California
law requires credit bureaus to notify the consumer within five
days of reinserting the information. Credit bureaus must provide
the subject of the report with a toll free number to dispute the
reinsertion, and the opportunity to include a dispute statement.
However, even if you have had errors in your report corrected, it
is wise to periodically check your credit report to make sure the
errors do not reappear.
**Can I have negative information deleted if the entry is not an
Negative information in your credit report usually can be removed
only by maintaining a good credit record over a number of years.
Companies or individuals promising quick fixes are almost always
For help with re-establishing good credit, the Consumer Credit
Counseling Service may be able to assist you. This nonprofit
group has offices in most cities. To find the office nearest you,
call (800) 388-2227.
Beware of other credit repair services. Generally they promise a
lot, charge a lot and deliver very little.
**What is the difference between a credit report and an
investigative consumer report?**
Some credit bureaus and "super bureaus" conduct investigative
consumer reports which are much more detailed than credit
reports. Among those using these reports are insurance companies,
employers and landlords. Investigative reports can contain
information on your character, reputation, personal
characteristics and life style. This information may be gathered
through personal interviews with neighbors, friends, associates
or acquaintances, as well as a search of public documents such as
property and court records.
Because the information in these reports is so detailed and may
be sensitive, both federal and state law impose stricter
regulations on credit bureaus which compile investigative reports
(California Civil Code 1786 et. seq.; 15 USC 1681d). An
investigative consumer report can only be used in limited
circumstances including employment, insurance and rental housing
decisions. This type of report cannot be used to grant credit.
The law requires the requester of the report to inform the
subject that an investigative consumer report will be made.
However, there are times when an employer does not have to tell
an employee he or she is the subject of an investigative report.
This includes when the report is to be used to consider promoting
or firing an employee, or when an employee is being investigated
for possible criminal activities.
You have the same rights to correct and dispute incorrect or
incomplete information in an investigative report as you have in
a credit report.
**For more information**
For in-depth information on credit and banking, contact the
organizations listed below. They have developed several
informative brochures on these topics.
o Bankcard Holders of America, 560 Herndon Parkway, Suite
120, Herndon, VA 22070. (703) 481-1110.
o Consumer Action's Credit and Finance Project, 116 New
Montgomery St., Suite 223, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Complaint Referral Hotline (415) 777-9635. (TDD/voice
o Federal Trade Commission, Public Reference, Washington
D.C. 20580 (request the FTC's publications order form).
For assistance in re-establishing good credit, contact the
**Consumer Credit Counseling Service** at (800) 388-2227.
California Civil Code section 1785 et. seq. contains the
**California Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies Act**. California
Civil Code section 1786 et. seq. contains the California
Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act. Federal law 15 USC
1681 contains the **Fair Credit Reporting Act**.
For more information on credit and other privacy-related issues,
contact the *Privacy Rights Clearinghouse* hotline at (800)
November 1992; Rev'd. June 1993, April 1994
Copyright 1992, 1993, 1994 Center for Public Interest Law Fact
Sheet No. 6
* * * * * * * * * *
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is a nonprofit consumer
education service funded by the California Public Utilities
Commission through its Telecommunications Education Trust. It is
administered by the University of San Diego School of Law's
Center for Public Interest Law.
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