If you have ever applied for a charge account, a personal loan, insurance, or a job, someone is probably keeping a file on you.  This file might contain information on how you pay your bills, or whether you have been sued, arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy.
The companies that gather and sell this information are called Consumer Reporting Agencies, or CRAs.  The most common type of CRA is the credit bureau.  The information sold by CRAs to creditors, employers, insurers, and other businesses is called a Consumer Report.  This generally contains information about where you work and live and about your bill-paying habits.
In 1970, Congress passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act to give consumers specific rights in dealing with CRAs.  The Act protects you by requiring credit bureaus to furnish correct and complete information to businesses to use in evaluating your applications for credit, insurance, or a job.
The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Here are answers to some questions about consumer reports and CRAs.
How do I locate the CRA that has my file?
If your application was denied because of information supplied by a CRA, that agencys name and address must be supplied to you by the company you applied to. 
Do I have the right to know what the report says?
Yes, if you request it.  The CRA is required to tell you about every piece of information in the report, and in most cases, the sources of that information.  Medical information is exempt from this rule, but you can have your physician try to obtain it for you.  The CRA is not required to give you a copy of the report, although more and more are doing so.  You also have the right to be told the name of anyone who received a report on you in the past six months.  (If your inquiry concerns a job application, you can get the names of those who received a report during the past two years.)
Is this information free?
Yes, if your application was denied because of information furnished by the CRA, and if you request it within 30 days of receiving the denial notice.  If you do not meet these requirements, the CRA may charge a reasonable fee.
What can I do if the information is inaccurate or incomplete?
Notify the CRA.  They are required to reinvestigate the items in question.  If the new investigation reveals an error, a corrected version will be sent, on your request, to anyone who received your report in the past six months.  (Job applications can have corrected reports sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years.)
What can I do if the CRA will not modify my report?
The new investigation may not resolve your dispute with the CRA.  If this happens, have the CRA include your version or a summary of your version of the disputed information in your file and in future reports.  At your request, the CRA will also show your version to anyone who recently received a copy of the old report.  There is no charge for this service if it is requested within 30 days after you receive notice of your application denial.  After that, there may be a reasonable charge.
Do I have to go in person to get the information?
No, you may also request information over the phone or through the mail.  But before the CRA will provide any information, you must establish your identity.  The CRA may request that you complete forms that they will send to you or they may require you to submit your request in writing, including your signature, policy or application number, or other data.  If you do with to visit in person, you�ll need to make an appointment.
Are reports prepared on insurance and job applicants different?
If a report is prepared on you in response to an insurance or job application, it may be an Investigative Consumer Report.  These are much more detailed than a regular consumer reports.  They often involve interviews with acquaintances about your lifestyle, character, and reputation.  Unlike regular consumer reports, you will be notified in writing when a company orders an investigative report about you.  This notice will also explain your right to ask for additional information about the report from the company you applied to.  If your application is rejected, however, you may prefer to obtain a complete disclosure by contacting the CRA, as outlined in this brochure.  Note that the CRA does not have to reveal the sources of the investigative information.
How long can the CRA report unfavorable information?
Generally seven years.  Adverse information cannot be reported after that, with certain exceptions.
Bankruptcy information can be reported for 10 years.      
Can anyone get a copy of this report?
No, it is only given to those with a legitimate business need.
Are there other laws I should know about?
Yes, if you applied for and were denied credit, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act required creditors to tell you the specific reasons for your denial.  For example, the creditor must tell you whether the denial was because you have no credit file with a CRA or because the CRA says you have  delinquent obligations.  This law also required creditors to consider, upon request, additional information you might supply about your credit history.
Do women have special problems with credit applications?
Married and formerly married women may encounter some common credit-related problems.  For more information, write the FTC for a free brochure on Women and Credit Histories at the listed address below.
Where should I report violations of the law?
Although the FTC cannott act as you lawyer in private disputes, information about your experiences and concerns is vital to the enforcement of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Please send questions or complaints to the FTC, Washington, D.C. 20580.
This brochure is presented to you as a courtesy from UPFRO Associates, Inc. and is for informational purposes only.
Questions regarding information contained in a report supplied by UPFRO Associates, Inc. should be mailed to the address below.  Please include your insurance company's name, your policy number, your name and your signature.
UPFRO Associates, Inc
Fair Credit Dept.
321 Mantoloking Road Suite 2D
Brick, New Jersey 07203
The information contained herein is not warranted nor guaranteed, legally or otherwise, nor does this information represent any changes that may have occurred to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  
You may contact the Federal Trade Commission, Washington D.C. 20580 for additional information.

 updated 08.15.2022