Impermissible Access to Credit Reports
Whether you are a college student looking to apply for a credit card, someone looking to rent a car, or merely someone trying to get a job, you should be aware about your credit history and who has the ability to pull your report. This is because the Federal Credit Reporting Act, or the FCRA, allows Landlords, Utility Companies, Employers, and Insurance Companies to all check your credit report- and when dealing with any one of these, it is possible that they will exercise this right. However they must have “permissible access”, which includes and is limited to the following:
Applications for Credit
Employment Background Check
Creditor Status Check
Collection Agency of Creditor
It is important to know that all other instances, according to the FCRA, are impermissible. Your employer cannot check your credit report without your permission. It cannot be used against you during a divorce, lawsuit, or other (non-credit) legal proceeding. Even a credit company is not allowed to pull a report on you if you are merely just an authorized user, and not the owner of a credit card the company owns.
If you believe that your Credit Report has been pulled without your permission illegally, you may be eligible for some monetary remedies. Firstly, you may be able to sue the person or company in state or federal court for damages. In order to do so you must first ascertain the kind of violation that has occurred: Willful Violation or Negligent Violation.
In cases of a willful violation, it must be proved that the Agency you are suing acted recklessly and that they should have known better, not necessarily that the Agency actually knew they were violating your rights. Essentially, it must be proven that the Agency acted in a way when they should have known that said actions were in violation of the FCRA. If the agency is found to be in willful violation, you may be eligible for Basic Damages, which are provable monetary damages caused by the violation; this has no limits. The other option is Statutory Damages between $100 and $1000. In order to be eligible for Statutory Damages, you do not have to prove that the violation actually harmed you in any way, it is merely enough to prove that the violation occurred, however, you must choose between Basic and Statutory Damages, you cannot have both. If the violator was a person, you are eligible for Basic Damages, which again has no limit, or $1000- whichever one is higher. Aside from Basic and Statutory Damages, you may also be eligible for punitive damages, which are decided by the court, and also the attorney’s fees and costs.
In cases of negligent violation, you must be able to prove that the Agency acted negligently, and thus failed to comply with the FCRA. Essentially it must be proven that any other normal Agency or organization, would not have acted the same way the Agency you are suing did; on top of this, a causal relationship must be established between the negligence and the harm you experienced. In cases of negligent violation, you are eligible for the actual damages (no minimum or maximum), and the attorney’s fees and costs.
If you believe your credit reports have been illegally accessed, as outlined by the FCRA, act fast! There is a statute of limitations to these kinds of cases, meaning that there is a time limit to when you can bring the case into court. Usually, it is five years after the initial date of violation, however, if you just found out of the violation, and it has been longer than five years, don’t worry, as you can still file the case within two years of discovery.