Washington FCRA Litigation Lawyer

Congress enacted the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in 1970 to protect consumers from inaccurate credit, background and consumer reporting, and from unauthorized credit report requests. Accurate reporting and privacy are essential for your income and well being because they can affect your ability to secure employment, housing, and loans.

If you suspect your credit rights were violated, please contact a Washington FCRA litigation lawyer from our team for a complimentary consultation by emailing [email protected].

What Kinds of Reports are Covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

Our FCRA litigation attorneys in Washington can explain in detail which reports are covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act during a case consultation. However, the most common reports include credit reports and background checks.

Credit Reports

When you apply for a credit card, housing, or employment, a bank, employer or landlord may pull your credit information to help determine if you are a reliable and trustworthy individual who can support future debts, obligations, or jobs. Credit reporting agencies such as Experian, Equifax, or Transunion provide your credit score, credit history, and other personal information to inform these individuals or organizations of your trustworthiness.

Your credit score is calculated using your payment history for accounts such as credit cards and utilities. It also accounts for debts, length of credit history, and how many inquiries or credit applications you have had in the last year.

In addition to the “big three” credit reporting agencies, there are many other businesses that collect data and are covered under the FCRA, including services that provide tenant screening, employment screening, and background checks.

Background Checks

Background checks provide more types of information than a credit report and are often the source of FCRA violations.

For example, an employer may run a background check on you to find out your credit score, criminal background, and information about where you’ve lived to determine if they want to hire you.

Reporting agencies have obligations to ensure this information is accurate, and provide you with information regarding your report so you can correct inaccuracies.

What is Inaccurate Credit Reporting?

When your credit report has inaccuracies, it can impact your ability to pass a credit or background check for a job, apartment application, or loan.

Examples of inaccurate reporting include:

  • Inclusion of accounts that have been opened in your name without your permission
  • Inclusion of unauthorized charges, such as charges that are the result of identity theft
  • Inclusion of charges for which you are not legally responsible (e.g. because you cancelled the service or account, etc.)
  • Mixing credit information of other people into your credit report (such as those with similar names)
  • Failure to accurately describe an account history (e.g. listing an account as delinquent when it was not, failure to note an account was settled, statement of a higher balance owing than is actually the case, etc.)
  • Failure to remove delinquencies or collection accounts after 7 years
  • Failure to remove dismissed bankruptcies after 10 years
  • Failure to correct or delete any other materially inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information within 30 days of a credit dispute
  • Other reporting inaccuracies, like reporting dated criminal convictions

Additionally, you must be informed if your credit report has been used against you in an adverse action. That means, if someone denied your application based on your credit, they must tell you and give you the name and contact information of the credit reporting agency that provided the information.

What are Unauthorized Credit Report Requests?

Credit reporting agencies can only release your credit reports to those with “valid need,” such as:

  • Landlords, for housing applications
  • Employers, with written consent
  • Creditors, for credit applications
  • Insurers, for insurance applications
  • Utilities companies, to open accounts

For your report to be provided to an employer or potential employer, you must provide written consent. If your reports were provided to your employer or potential employer without your consent, contact a local FCRA litigation attorney immediately.

How Do I Find Out If my Credit Reporting Rights Have Been Violated?

First, review your credit report annually and look for inaccuracies.

Many types of FCRA violations will not be apparent until you review your credit report. A good starting point is to request a credit report from all three credit reporting agencies and review them for accuracy. Each year, you are permitted to obtain one free copy of your credit report from each credit reporting agency.

If there are accounts on your report that are the result of identity theft or unauthorized use, or if your account history is not accurately reflected, you may need to first dispute the inaccurate information in order to get the FCRA’s full protections.

Once you have disputed your credit report with the credit reporting agencies, they have an obligation to conduct a reasonable investigation, including contacting the creditor or other entity furnishing the incorrect data. What constitutes a reasonable investigation will depend on the circumstances, including the nature of the error and how much detail and proof you provide to the credit bureau.

Many FCRA violations relate to the failure of credit bureaus and creditors to remove inaccurate information in response to a consumer’s dispute. Unfortunately, our lawyers experienced in FCRA litigation see this all the time. For tips on the dispute process, click here.

It is also a good idea to review your credit report to make sure that no one has made an unauthorized credit report request or “impermissible credit pull.” A credit report will usually list all credit pulls toward the end of the report, after the list of your account histories.

What Can I Recover from a Lawsuit?

When companies fail to comply with their FCRA obligations to consumers, consumers may be able to file a lawsuit and collect monetary damages. A settlement may depend on whether the violation is willful or negligent. Types of harm for which compensation may be awarded include:

  • Money losses caused by a violation of the FCRA
  • Emotional distress
  • Other costs

As long as your case is successful, the business that violated the FCRA is also responsible for paying your attorneys’ fees. Punitive damages or extra damages awarded by the court for particularly bad conduct, may be available as well.

What Can I Do If I Suspect my Rights Were Violated?

If a credit reporting agency, or, in some cases, a user of consumer reports or furnisher of information violates the FCRA, you may be able to file suit in state or federal court.

The attorneys of the Financial Justice Initiative are industry leaders in bringing cases against credit reporting agencies, employers, housing authorities, and other responsible entities for violating consumers’ credit reporting rights.

Our FCRA practice team includes attorneys from both Terrell Marshall Law Group and Schlanger Law Group LLP who are committed to protecting consumer rights, with a focus on identity theft, credit reporting and consumer class actions.

Our firms work together to bring justice to consumers whose rights have been violated. For FCRA lawsuit claims, we have secured debt relief, cash payments, and the removal of inaccurate credit information.

We have successfully represented many victims of inaccurate credit reporting.  Here are a few examples of individual consumers we have been able to assist:

  • A retired detective and a police officer whose credit was severely damaged when their identities were stolen by a “friend” and used to fraudulently take out dozens of auto loans
  • A woman whose identity was stolen by an ex-husband and used to open up new credit cards in her name and re-activate older accounts
  • A woman whose credit was stolen by an ex-boyfriend who opened credit cards and applied for auto loans in her name
  • Victims whose credit was damaged by crooked auto dealers who used the “digital signing” process to place consumer’s signatures on contracts with inflated prices or other objectionable terms
  • A consumer whose credit was damaged when a family member’s disputed debt was listed on the consumer’s credit report
  • Consumers whose account payments were not properly noted on their credit reports
  • A consumer whose credit reports contained adverse information caused by an auto dealer’s failure to timely turn back a car lease

Our FCRA Class Action Work:

  • A $15 million settlement with Sterling, which provided outdated employee background checks to employers, including Walmart
  • A $2.49 million settlement with Costco, which failed to disclose that it would be obtaining a background report on an applicant
  • A $4.5 million settlement with AppFolio, which produced an inaccurate report for an apartment application
  • A settlement valued at up to $8 million with Starbucks, which removed a contingent offer of employment based on an inaccurate background check
  • A $1.5 million settlement with Barrett Business Services, Inc., which provided a background check authorization form that violated the FCRA

Contact a Washington FCRA Litigation Attorney

The consumer protection attorneys at Terrell Marshall Law Group and Schlanger Law Group LLP have extensive experience representing victims of inaccurate credit reporting. Connect with our team using our online form or call for a free legal evaluation. Working with a Washington FCRA litigation lawyer on our team can ensure your rights are protected.