Category: Credit Reporting Errors

Roger Zamparo Jr., appears on legal podcast on identity theft issues and remedies

Identity theft awareness and education is increasing due to the efforts of consumer law attorneys and the agencies charged with policing consumer credit and debt management and collection, such as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Identity theft has evolved with technology and it is easier than ever for thieves to hack computer systems and gain access to your private financial and personal information. The days of dumpster diving may soon be in the past. Meanwhile, the damage caused by identity thieves can linger for years if the identity theft victim fails to take proper action when they discover identity theft.

Use the link to listen the original article with the published link to the podcast, hosted by the Illinois Licensing Consultants and the Chicago health law and litigation firm, Michael V. Favia and Associates, P.C.

Spotting identity theft and taking action with Roger Zamparo

Podcast subject matter:

  • How do identity thieves operate and what do they do with your information?
  • What are some of the new ways thieves use technology to steal identities?
  • How much damage can identity theft cause, in addition to credit problems?
  • What legal remedies are available to credit theft victims and how does it work?
  • If we learn identity theft happens when it is too late, how can we be safe?

Roger explains identity theft and the Zamparo Law Group’s comprehensive response and action plans for clients who learn that someone stole their identity. Roger stresses the importance of ordering quarterly credit reports from www.AnnualCreditReport.com, the official and free service consumers can use to spot and respond to errors in their credit report. Roger states that the Zamparo Law Group does not charge clients for the initial and sometimes very intensive research into the identity breach. Clients learn how and what to do in requesting the credit reporting groups properly reflect your accurate credit history and eliminate any negative marks in connection with identity theft. There are many credit reporting agencies in the marketplace, and some are specialized and few people know about them. If these credit reporting agencies fail to correct your credit report, the Zamparo Law Group can sue them and get paid by them, not you.

The Zamparo Law Group helps men and women fight back against identity theft. Zamparo Law Group attorneys fight and win in court, individually and in consumer rights class action lawsuits.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the companies who refuse to follow the law.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

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Fighting identity theft and making identity theft victims whole

White-collar crime is not victimless crime; victims of identity theft suffer significant losses and hardships. Advances in technology and Internet commerce are helping safeguard our private information but thieves and hackers are learning advanced methods to steal identities. Damage suffered by identity theft victims can be extensive and lead to long-term problems. Unfortunately, most people will not know their identity is stolen until after damage is done. The identify thief may have obtained a drivers license, insurance, bank accounts, credit cards and bought a new car, all in your name. What happens when the identity thief does not pay the bills that are in your name and affect your credit? What happens with the identity thief is arrested for DUI with their license in your name? What happens when a police officer comes to your house and arrests you for a crime you did not commit?

We say, “It won’t happen to me, I’m safe and cautious with my personal information.”

Imagine you never use credit or debit cards online or over the phone; you shred all mail with your personal information and pick up your mail the minute the post office delivers it to your home. Identity thieves will get your information if they want it. Whether they hack into systems, where your private information is kept or they buy illegal lists of identities and private information on the black market, there is little anyone can do to stop a thief. Another target for identity theft may be a company, such as an insurance provider, that failed to adequately secure your information from thieves. On a local scale, the family law firm down the street may have client files, full of private information, and an unscrupulous night cleaning crew who hit the identity theft jackpot. In many cases, the thieves simply sell your identity on the black market, to domestic and foreign buyers.

Identity theft can be a disaster for victims, left with a damaged life and reputation.

Cancelling and ordering new credit cards is one thing. Proving you did not commit a hit and run collision causing death is quite another. An identity thief could feasibly obtain all necessary information to register a stolen vehicle in your name and even insure it with your driver’s license number. If the thief causes a collision while pretending to be you, they can simply abandon the assumed identity, move along to the next victim, and become them. Along the way, your credit could be ruined and the work it takes to restore your credit rating is extensive. Tax identity theft is also on the rise. Thieves use tax filing websites to file phony returns in your name, have tax refunds deposited into phony accounts they open in your name, and when you file your actual tax return the IRS rejects your return, and audits everything tied to your name and social security number.

There are state and federal criminal and civil penalties for thieves, and remedies for victims.

In Illinois, a person commits identity theft, “uses any personal identifying information or personal identification document of another person to fraudulently obtain credit, money, goods, services, or other property.[i]” Illinois law classifies identity theft as a felony with increasing severity and penalties as the value of the theft of goods or services increases:

  1. Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property not exceeding $300 in value is a Class 4 felony.
  2. Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property exceeding $300 and not exceeding $2,000 in value is a Class 3 felony.
  3. Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property exceeding $2,000 and not exceeding $10,000 in value is a Class 2 felony.
  4. Identity theft of credit, money, goods, services, or other property exceeding $10,000 and not exceeding $100,000 in value is a Class 1 felony.

Under federal law, possession and transfer of private information to create or use a false identity is punishable by fines and prison terms of not more than five to 30 years.[ii]

Individual victims of identity theft may have a cause of action and file a lawsuit against the identity thieves, if they catch them and can collect damages if the thief is caught and illegally obtained assets are available for sale and recovery by a victim. A much more likely scenario is a lawsuit against a company who was negligent with your information and the identity theft occurred as a result of that negligence. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a source of federal law providing remedies for consumer victims of identity theft.[iii] Victims can recover money for violations of the FCRA when your information was mishandled, and recovery can include actual damages, statutory damages and attorney’s fees.

To learn more about the FCRA and its enforcement, read our blog article, The Fair Credit Reporting Act, responsibilities and remedies for consumer reporting violations.

Cleaning up the damage: What else we can do to remedy your negative effects

If you are an identity theft victim, the attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group can assist and advise you about the process of contacting all the contacts on your accounts with banks, credit agencies, driver’s license facilities, the Social Security office, and with making proper reports of identity theft crime to the proper state and federal agencies. The paperwork involved can be extensive and there may be a specific order in the process of restoring your proper identity and canceling your bogus version of you.

The Zamparo Law Group can help consumers fight identity theft and companies who fail to safeguard your private information. We fight and win in court, individually and in class action lawsuits.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the companies who refuse to follow the law.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

 

[i] 720 ILCS 5/16-30

[ii] 18 U.S. Code § 1028

[iii] Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681

Image Source: Identity theft complaints on the rise in Wisconsin http://bit.ly/1L7ksKd

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Report Summary: The most reported abusive and deceptive debt collection companies

The Alliance for a Just Society is an organization dedicated to addressing economic, racial and social inequalities. This month, the group published an extensive research study, profiling the companies with the most complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for debt collection complaints. Federal law requires third party debt collectors to follow certain strict guidelines controlling how they are allowed to collect debts, and our article, Consumer protection overview of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), published on the Zamparo Law Group, Consumer Protection Blog explains the law in detail.

Some of the common complaints about debt collectors include: (1) Continued attempts at collecting debts not actually owed; (2) Improper communication tactics; (3) Disclosure of verification of the debt; (4) False statements or representations about debts; (5) Improper contact or sharing of consumer information; and (6) Threatening or taking illegal actions against individuals.

When a debt collector violates the FDCPA, our law firm can help clients enforce the law and seek a court’s award of actual damages suffered, statutory damages and attorney’s fees. Many people assume the aggressive debt collectors make significant money (a $13 billion industry in the U.S.[i]) using abusive tactics, and they may consider it a cost of doing business, to sustain lawsuits and judgments entered against them in Federal court. To help stop these unethical collection companies, we should learn and be aware of how they violate the law, and share this information with other consumers who may be victims of abusive and deceptive collection practices.

Most common complaints against debt collectors
Image Source: http://bit.ly/1WMJVd4

The following summary highlights and lists four of the worst offenders, identified by the Alliance for a Just Society in their January 2016 report, Unfair Deceptive and Abusive Debt Collectors Profit from Aggressive Tactics. Notice in the review below, the most common consumer complaints are the continued attempts at collecting debts not owed.

  1. Encore Capital Group, Inc.[ii]

The CFPB received more than twice the complaints about the Encore Capital Group than any other debt collection company, totaling more than 6 percent of all the debt collections complaints in the CFPB database. Between July 7, 2013 and August 7, 2015, the CFPB received 4,684 consumer complaints. Encore is the second-largest debt collector, pursing collections of 7.5 percent of the debts in the U.S.; their President and CEO’s 2014 executive compensation was $5,190,334.

The three most common issues raised by consumers were: (1) Continued attempts to collect debt not owed; (2) Disclosure verification of debt; and (3) Communication tactics.

Example of a consumer complaint: “I have been receiving numerous calls from [Encore subsidiary] Midland Credit. They are looking for someone else, not me, for over a month. Sometimes it is automated and they just ring the phone; I called them back XXXX times and asked them to take off my number — calls keep coming. Today I spoke to a person that said he would remove it from the automated calls and now the manual calls have begun.”

  1. PRA Group, Inc.[iii]

The CFPB received 2,216 complaints about the PRA Group between July 7, 2013 and August 7, 2015. PRA is the third-largest debt collector, pursing collections of 6.9 percent of the debts in the U.S.; their Chairman of the Board, President and CEO’s 2014 executive compensation was $5,606,441.

The three most common issues raised by consumers were: (1) Continued attempts to collect debt not owed; (2) Communication tactics; and (3) Disclosure verification of debt.

Example of a consumer complaint: “My XXXX died owing a credit card debt. The debt collectors say I now owe the debt. My name is not on the application for credit nor have I benefited from the credit card. The debt collectors reported it to the credit reporting corps. And it appears on my credit report as a debt I failed to pay and fraud. I am applying to refinance my home and I am being denied because of the report. I have no other blemishes on my credit report. I can’t sleep with the fear of losing my home.”

  1. Enhanced Recovery Company, LLC.[iv]

The CFPB received 2,016 complaints about the Enhanced Recovery Company between July 7, 2013 and August 7, 2015. Enhanced Recovery pursues collections of 2.7 percent of the debts in the U.S.; their President and CEO’s 2014 executive compensation is not publicly available.

The three most common issues raised by consumers were: (1) Continued attempts to collect debt not owed; (2) Disclosure verification of debt; and (3) False statements or representation.

Example of a consumer complaint: “I received many calls from a debt collector, to the point where I had to change my phone number. This is a debt that is from 6+ years ago, which I don’t have proof that I paid but in fact did pay. They have gone ahead and reported it in my credit reports. I tried calling XXXX last time in an effort to solve this issue and was threatened that if I did not pay they would contact my XXXX and contact my employer (which they repeatedly called and that’s how we found out it was a false collection agency).”

  1. Citigroup, Inc.[v]

The CFPB received 1,553 complaints about the Citigroup between July 7, 2013 and August 7, 2015. Citigroup’s top paid executive, the Co-President’s 2014 executive compensation was $15,892,220.

The three most common issues raised by consumers were: (1) Continued attempts to collect debt not owed; (2) Communication tactics; and (3) Disclosure verification of debt.

Example of a consumer complaint: “Letter sent to me pertaining to my DEAD husband’s account. My husband died on XXXX XXXX, 1991 (almost XXXX years ago). I believe the account was paid off, but I might be wrong. But I do believe there is a statute of limitations with debt collections. I would consider XXXX years within that limit. Also, it was sent to my current address that has never been associated with my dead husband at all. I am not listed on this account at all.”

The remaining debt buyers and collectors on the Alliance for a Just Society list[vi] are:

  1. Expert Global Solutions.
  2. Resurgent Capital Services L.P.
  3. Capital One Financial Corp.
  4. Synchrony Financial.
  5. Convergent Resources, Inc.
  6. JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  7. Allied Interstate LLC.
  8. Bank of America Corporation.
  9. Navient Corp.
  10. Dynamic Recovery Solutions, LLC.
  11. Wells Fargo.

If you are experiencing similar complaints about these or any other debt collector, the Zamparo Law Group can help protect you and your consumer rights.

Zamparo ImageThe Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm, representing consumer plaintiffs harmed by debt collectors violating the FDCPA and other similar federal and state laws. Zamparo Law Group in the northwest suburbs of Chicago sues and wins against the collection companies who refuse to follow the law and use illegal tactics to force consumers to pay the debts they are hired to collect.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn pages. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

[i]Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: CFPB Annual Report 2015.” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mar. 2015, p. 7.

[ii] See the Unfair Deceptive and Abusive Debt Collectors Profit from Aggressive Tactics (hereinafter “Consumer Complaints Profile Report”) at page 10.

[iii] Consumer Complaints Profile Report at page 12.

[iv] Consumer Complaints Profile Report at page 14.

[v] Consumer Complaints Profile Report at page 16.

[vi] Alliance for a Just Society, Unfair Deceptive and Abusive Debt Collectors Profit from Aggressive Tactics, Jan. 2016.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforces rules for mortgage settlement and servicing.

Arbitration clauses prevent consumers from suing in court, but might not end the fight

Consumers are often victims of unfair practices of which they are previously unaware, and when they learn about subjects like arbitration clauses in contracts, it may be too late and the damage is done. Arbitration clauses buried in the fine print of consumer contracts limit a consumer’s access to the courts to individually sue or participate in a class action lawsuit against a creditor who wrongs them. In too many cases the companies suing consumers either sue the wrong person or do not have any real documentation that someone actually owes a debt. Binding arbitration clauses can prevent a wronged consumer from suing a bad-acting company in court. While it may seem like there is no hope, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) can fine companies who break the law and consumer rights attorneys are advocating for consumers and fighting back.

By the time consumers find out they agreed to arbitration, it often too late to sue in court.

Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution procedure in which a panel of arbitrators, often lawyers and retired judges, are presented with the arguments of both sides of a dispute. Based on the local rules for arbitration, where it takes place, the parties can state their claims, defenses, and present evidence supporting their claims. Arbitration however, is not the same as a court of law, and if the arbitration clause is a “binding,” the parties must accept the decision of the arbitrators and that is the end of the line, and there is no returning to the civil courts. To have a dispute settled in arbitration requires both the parties to voluntarily agree to arbitration. However, that agreement to be limited to arbitration is often included in the fine print of consumer agreements, and the consumers accepting those terms often have no idea that they are giving up their right to sue in traditional civil courts.

Arbitration clauses are found in more agreements than consumers may realize.

Arbitration clauses are frequently used in consumer contracts for utility services, credit cards and consumer loans for homes, businesses and automobiles. Even if a consumer is aware of arbitration and they seek to avoid being bound by a binding arbitration clause, the fine print in a disclosure that comes with the monthly bill is easily overlooked. Moreover, consumers transacting their business online might fail to read a click through agreement containing a modification to their agreement with the lender or provider in which they accept the new terms by clicking to proceed to make an online payment, for example.

Clifford Cain Jr., a retired electrician, in his West Baltimore home. Courtesy of NY Times, Sued Over Old Debt, and Blocked From Suing Back. http://nyti.ms/1OmTE6w
Clifford Cain Jr., a retired electrician, in his West Baltimore home. Courtesy of NY Times, Sued Over Old Debt, and
Blocked From Suing Back. http://nyti.ms/1OmTE6w

To big to be held accountable? Suing consumers who do not even owe a debt? How is this possible?

The big companies who use arbitration clauses in their consumer agreements assume that the majority of consumers will ignore or not challenge the arbitration clause because they need the services or money borrowed from lenders. In the example of a utility company, there may be no other viable option for services and the consumer has little choice other than to accept the terms of the agreement, including the arbitration clause. In many cases, the consumer pays their bills on time and satisfies their duties in the agreement. However, in other cases, things go horribly wrong and the consumer suffers the harsh reality of the arbitration agreement, barring their access to the courts when they want to sue the lender or service provider.

One individual in Maryland, living on a fixed social security income, found out about arbitration clauses the hard way. Mr. Clifford Cain, Jr., a retired electrician in Baltimore[i], one day discovered his bank account was drained because a utility obtained a judgment against him and seized his funds. Incredibly, the debt was not a current and owing debt and the suit to collect was wholly improper. Even when Midland Funding, the party collecting against Mr. Cain, was unable to produce a copy of any arbitration agreement applying to Mr. Cain, the court allowed an example of another similar customer and their arbitration agreement, to satisfy the Court.

Abusive collectors and loan servicers have business models assuming many people cannot fight back.

Big companies buy and sell bundles of debt and collection companies seek to collect on what they assume are proper owing debts. In most cases, these collectors do not have any of the original documentation of an agreement, the individuals names just appear on a list with an amount owed. People who have never had any transactions with some companies are sued in court and judgments are entered against them. Individuals who want to challenge an arbitration clause that blocks them from court have an uphill battle. Class action lawsuits representing a significant number of consumers have a better chance of making it through litigation, and some cases return large jury verdicts against big companies engaged in deceptive and harmful debt collection practices.

The Courts too often take the position of the plaintiff companies and uphold the arbitration clauses.

Courts are often ruling that arbitration clauses are binding and enforceable, even despite clear and reasonable arguments about their enforceability, and are blocking class action lawsuits. Justice is failing. The CFPB that protects consumers from harmful business and debt collection practices. The CFPB can issue fines against companies bullying consumers, and the CFPB is not barred by any arbitration clause because the CFPB is not a court of law, rather an administrative agency with the teeth necessary to take a bite out of bad business practices.

Advocating for consumers is all the attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group do, and they do it well.

The attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group, advocating for consumers, file complaints with the CFPB and file individual and class action lawsuits against abusive companies, bullying consumers with arbitration clauses and bogus claims. Many people do not realize that there are consumer protection laws the Zamparo Law Group attorneys fight to be enforced. Unfortunately, too many people give up and accept an unfair fate, some eventually filing for bankruptcy protection to avoid the burden of being bullied by abusive companies. If you think you are a victim of unfair business practices and need someone advocating for you, call the Zamparo Law Group.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook page. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

[i] NYTimes, Sued Over Old Debt, and Blocked From Fighting Back, by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery, Dec. 22, 2015.

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Identity theft awareness, prevent fraudulent use of personal information

Every year, millions of people are affected by the intentional misuse of their personal information. “Identity Theft” can take place within families just as easily as it can result from international computer hacking scandals. There are many ways thieves and scammers can obtain your personal information and use it to steal from you and open credit accounts in your name, file fraudulent tax returns, obtain employment, and create a false version of you. With regard to tax fraud, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who enforces laws related to credit transactions, designates January 25 – 29, 2016, as Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.[i] As the holidays approach, it is important to beware of identity theft and start taking measures to prevent the loss and fraudulent use of our personal information.

Purse-snatchers and muggers make up an obvious category of thieves who can take your wallet and walk off with enough information to steal your identity. When someone is robbed, they often know that the first thing to do is call and cancel credit and bank cards, often before filing a police report. However, when a thief steals our trash or mail, it could be years before an identity theft is discovered, possibly at the point of denial of a credit card, auto or home loan, by which time it is possible significant damage is done.

What happens when someone steals your identity and you do not find out until later?

Victims of identity theft might learn their identity was stolen after they are denied credit, a job or run into a tax problem, when they immediately order a copy of their credit report. Some identity theft victims who do not regularly apply for credit cards or jobs, find out a thief opened a significant amount of accounts in their names and may be spending money wildly and financing cars and luxury items. If a consumer does not often or check their credit report, years could pass before an identity theft discovery. The more time that passes, the worse the damage can be, and the more effort it can take to repair the damage. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires the three major credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) to provide you a copy of your credit report, free of charge, one time per year. The web link for a free credit report is www.AnnualCreditReport.com and there is an explanation on the Federal Trade Commission web page on Free Credit Reports.

Consumers can remove fraudulent accounts and contest negative credit marks as they work to restore their credit rating and reputation with lenders. The process may be complicated and involve the use of consumer protection laws including the FCRA. The Zamparo Law Group represents individuals of identity theft, using the law and experience in consumer law and identity theft and recovery to help clients rebuild their credit.

While there is no absolute way to prevent identity theft, you can make it less likely to happen.

Take out your wallet right now and look at its contents, laying everything out on the table, looking for any personal information about you to which the public would not have access. The personal information needed in a recipe for identity theft can include your full name, addresses, phone numbers, social security number, date of birth, bank, credit and utility accounts. Only carry the items you need on a daily basis. Put social security cards and other non-essential cards and information in a secure place at home.

Social media accounts, which can be hacked, contain personal information about us that can be used in identity theft. Do you publish your date of birth on Facebook? Did you just receive a friend request from someone who looks familiar enough? They could be a false friend looking for the last bit of information to go to town with your identity.

Make it a habit to protect your personal information. How often do credit card offers arrive in the mail and go directly into the trash or recycling? How often do we sit and watch our trashcans to make sure a thief does not rummage through and steal documents displaying our personal information? Go buy a shredder, any size and model, and put one or more in conspicuous places in your home so the mail with personal information goes in the shredder. Additionally, when going on vacation, make sure the mail is collected by a neighbor or held at the post office, to not leave it open to being stolen.

Order a copy of your credit report once a year or more. Make it a habit to watch out for identity theft.

Do you ever receive phone calls from creditors looking for someone who owes money for a bill? Is your phone number is the one on file with the credit card company? This is a red flag that someone could be using your phone number, and who knows what else, to open credit accounts in your name and ruin your credit rating, causing significant damage and liability. If you receive strange phone calls, mail or have a hunch that something is not right, go to Annual Credit Report[ii] and get started.

Protecting yourself is the first step, but if you are already a victim, the consumer protection attorneys at the Zamparo Law Group, P.C. can help you undo the negative effects of identity theft and help you get back on track.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm that files lawsuits against violators of the FCRA and federal and state consumer protection laws. Teaching consumers how to spot consumer rights violations is important because informed consumers can stand up to those who violate the law.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook page. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

[i] Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

[ii] www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 to obtain your free credit report

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The Fair Credit Reporting Act, responsibilities and remedies for consumer reporting violations

Decisions based on consumer reports of credit and financial histories directly influence the rates consumers pay for utilities, loans, insurance, and chances of being hired by employers. Approvals of rental applications, professional licensing and personal relationships when individual’s daily lives are affected by the collection of credit-based decisions and judgments.[i]  According to a 2015 study by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 23 percent of consumer reports contain inaccurate information.[ii] The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is the consumer reporting law regulating the collection, dissemination and the use of consumer credit information.[iii] The FCRA is enforced by the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and through private party lawsuits.

The FCRA regulates consumer reports, “any written, oral, or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the consumer’s eligibility for (a) credit or insurance to be used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes; (b) employment purposes; or (c) any other purpose authorized under 604 [§ 1681b].[iv]

Responsibilities and remedies for violations of the FCRA apply to users of consumer reports, furnishers of information, employee background checks and the activity of the consumer reporting agencies.

TransUnion, Equifax and Experian are the three major credit reporting agencies that collect and disseminate consumer credit information from furnishers who share reports with users, all defined by the FCRA. Additionally, there are dozens of nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies that focus on specific information. The consumer reporting agencies must keep procedures to provide the most accurate information about a consumer and provide that consumer with information about them, to verify that the consumer data is accurate. When consumers dispute and receive removals of negative credit information, that information may not be listed on any future reports without notifying the consumer within five days. There is also a limit of how long negative information may be listed on a consumer report. Most negative information must be removed within seven years, and 10 years when bankruptcy information is reported.

Creditors, defined by the FCRA are furnishers of consumer reporting information, with financial relationships with the consumer, such as credit card companies, auto finance and mortgage banking institutions. The Act requires creditors to provide complete and accurate information to the credit reporting agencies, and the creditors must investigate consumer disputes they receive from credit reporting agencies. Creditors have 30 days to respond to a consumer dispute and must verify, correct or delete the information on the consumer’s report. If a creditor reports negative information about a consumer to a consumer-reporting agency, the creditor must first provide the consumer with notice, within one month, and the notice is usually language about the creditor reporting negative information, which is located on monthly statements and communications.

Users of consumer reports are individuals and organizations with access to consumer reports who use the information contained in consumer reports to review background information to make decisions on insuring or lending money or credit to a consumer. A consumer report user may only obtain consumer reports for purposes identified as permissible under the Act, and that user must notify the consumer when an adverse decision or action is based on the review of the consumer report. When notifying the consumer, a report is required by the Act to identify the company or credit-reporting agency providing the reported information, so that the consumer may verify or contest the information in their report.

Employer conducting employment background checks require written consent of an applicant who must be told how the employer wishes to use and not misuse the information they obtain. If an employer decides against a hiring decision, they must furnish a copy of the credit report used and notify the applicant of their opportunity to dispute the information contained in their credit report before the employer makes their final adverse decision.[v]

Remedies for FCRA violations include actual and statutory damages, attorney’s fees and court costs as well as punitive damages.

It can be difficult determining the value of actual damages suffered by a consumer, when their consumer report information or rights are compromised under the FCRA, and statutory damages are allowed to identify a damage amount to award to a victim of a violation. In addition to the actual or statutory damage allowance, the attorney’s fees incurred by the individual plaintiff’s attorney are recoverable against the offender, as well as court costs incurred in litigating the claims for violations.

When a FCRA violation is done willfully, punitive damages may also be awarded to the individual or class of individuals in class action, with the intent in punishing and deterring an offender from continuing to violate the FCRA. Punitive damage awards can be significant, worth millions of dollars, and are often reported in the news which is good for consumer awareness and can urge more consumers to pay attention to credit and consumer reports.

There are many definitions, rules and exceptions set forth in the FCRA and the law interpreting its application in a variety of situations. An experienced consumer rights attorney working frequently with FCRA clients and cases can help violated consumers enforce their rights.

The Zamparo Law Group, P.C. is a consumer protection law and litigation firm that files lawsuits against violators of the FCRA and federal and state consumer protection laws. Teaching consumers how to spot consumer rights violations is important because informed consumers can stand up to those who violate the law.

To learn more about consumer protection law and the Zamparo Law Group, please visit the firm’s website. You may also ask for a free case review. The Zamparo Law Group is connected on social media, please follow us and share our resources we share on our Facebook page. You may call the Zamparo Law Group with any questions by dialing (224) 875-3202.

 

[i] Forbes, A Bad Credit Score Affects a Lot More Than Credit, by Heather Struck, Jul. 20, 2011.

[ii] Report to Congress Under Section 319 of the Fair and Accurate Transactions Act of 2003.

[iii] Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681

[iv] §603 – 15 U.S.C. § 1681a, Definitions; rules of construction.

[v] See Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information, Employee Background Checks.

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Roger Zamparo Jr. Attorney

Consumer Protection Podcast: Roger Zamparo walks us through an issue spotting exercise in a variety of consumer protection laws, state and federal.

Roger Zamparo recently presented an overview of consumer protection law and litigation on the podcast hosted by the Illinois Professional Licensing Consultants. The program titled, Spotting consumer protection issues and litigation with Roger Zamparo, highlights sources of consumer protection law and several examples of how unfair and deceptive business practices affect consumers.

Zamparo Law Group

The Zamparo Law Group defends consumers from deceptive and unfair business practices, abusive collection tactics, identity theft, and a host of other anti-consumer behaviors.

Topics covered in this podcast interviewclick here to listen now!

  • What is consumer protection law and how do attorneys help you recover from harm?
  • Does an injured victim pay attorneys fees or collect at the end, like in personal injury law?
  • What are the sources of law identifying conduct resulting in a consumer protection violation?
  • A brief overview of fair debt collection laws and what types of wrongs to watch for.
  • How the fair credit rules work and what the credit reporting agencies should do to protect you.
  • About the Driver Privacy Protection Act and concern about motor vehicle records.
  • What the Telephone Consumer Protection Act requires of telemarketers.

Roger Zamparo received a B.A. from Ohio University and his J.D. from The John Marshall Law School (where he is currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees). In his 35-year litigation practice, he has represented individuals and corporations in both state and federal courts. He has concentrated on several areas, including consumer law and legal malpractice. Please contact the Illinois Professional Licensing Consultants at (224) 847-3202 to be connected with Roger Zamparo if you have a consumer protection question or need to consult on your legal matter.

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Zamparo Law Group

Credit Reporting Errors

Credit reports, or consumer reports, have broad-reaching implications that touch on many aspects of our daily lives. We recommend that everyone check their credit reports at least once a year by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com, the only truly free source for the most accurate information the main consumer reporting agencies maintain in your file.

The consumer protection attorneys of the Zamparo Law Group, P.C. can guide you through the process of disputing inaccurate information or helping you address identity theft, making sure your credit reports accurately reflect your credit history.

Contact Us Today If You Have…

Been denied credit or had to pay higher interest rates because of inaccuracies on your credit report.
Been turned down for a job because of inaccuracies on your credit report.
Discovered inaccurate information on your credit report.

Contact Us Today If a Consumer Reporting Agency (Credit Bureau) Has…

Confused you with someone else.
Reported inaccurate information about you in your credit report.

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