Know Your Financial Rights

Most people don’t know their financial rights when dealing with credit issuers, if the results of a recent FICO survey are to be believed. We thought we’d clarify a few things so that you are in a better position to manage your financial life:

For instance, did you know that Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) must have your written consent before they can provide a credit report to your employer? Eighty percent of the people surveyed did not know this — which is troubling since credit checks have become a common part of the process of getting a job.

In case you’re planning on ignoring an old charge-off or open collection on your account, know that consumer information agencies report negative information for seven years. Most people (78%) didn’t know this fact. You should, since old derogatory information can follow you around for years, and crop up at really inconvenient times, (like when you’re trying to buy a house).

However, you do have the legal right to challenge any derogatory information on your credit reports. And during the time that credit-related items are in dispute, your credit rating is protected under federal law.

You can get copies of you credit reports for free once a year. Also, you can get a free copy within thirty days of getting turned down for credit. When you are denied credit, the issuer must notify you in writing, and specify the reason for turning you down. (Tip: this is often a good time for you to take a look at your credit reports, and to challenge any derogatory information there that you feel is wrong.)

The most important thing for you to realize is that you have rights, and you can take steps to protect yourself – and your credit rating. Getting access to your credit files is good place to start.

If you haven’t already done so in the past 12 months, head over to and request your Equifax, TransUnion and Experian files today. (Be careful: there are a lot of come-ons for “free credit reports,” but this one is the real deal.)


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