When a consumer in Sacramento makes the decision to explore the option of bankruptcy, there are many considerations to take into account. One of the major ones is finding the right attorney with depth of experience in local bankruptcy courts. But another major consideration is how the consumer’s credit report will be affected before, during and after the bankruptcy. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes accuracy, fairness and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies. The most common reporting agencies are the credit reporting agencies Experian, Trans Union and Equifax.

The following is a list and summary of consumers’ rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

A consumer must be told if information in her file has been used against her. Anyone who uses a credit report or another type of consumer report to deny an application for credit, insurance or employment must tell the consumer, and give the name, address and phone number of the agency that provided the information.

A consumer has the right to know what is in her file. A consumer may request and obtain all the information about her in the files of a consumer reporting agency, called a “file disclosure.” The consumer will be required to provide proper identification, which often includes social security number. In many situations, the disclosure will be free. A few examples of situations in which a consumer is entitled to a free file disclosure are:

1. - A person has taken adverse action against the consumer because of information in the credit report;

2. - The consumer is a victim of identity theft and places a fraud alert in her file;

3. - The consumer’s file contains inaccurate information as a result of fraud.

In addition, all consumers are entitled to one free disclosure every 12 months upon request from each nationwide credit bureau and from nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies.

A consumer has a right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information. If a consumer identifies information in her file that is incomplete or inaccurate, and reports it to the consumer reporting agency, the agency must investigate (unless the dispute is frivolous.)

Consumer reporting agencies may not report outdated negative information.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.

A consumer may limit “prescreened” offers of credit and insurance she gets based on information in her credit report. Unsolicited “prescreened” offers for credit and insurance fill up mailboxes all over the Sacramento area. Those offers, however, must include a toll-free phone number that the consumer can call if she chooses to remove her name and address from the lists on which these offers are based. The phone number to call to opt out with the nationwide credit bureaus is (888) 567-8688.

A consumer has the right to ask for a credit score. A credit score is a numerical summary of credit-worthiness based on the information in the reporting agency’s file. A consumer is entitled to a credit score upon request, however they can charge for this service.

A consumer may seek damages from violators. If a consumer reporting agency, user of consumer reports or a furnisher of credit data violates the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers may be able to sue for damages in state or federal court.

This brief summary is only a short primer of all of the rights that consumers have under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. A consumer should make sure to consult her attorney when making decisions and seeking remedies from the bureaus.