Tag: Fair Credit Reporting Act

Credit Bureau Reporting: New rules require more transparency and information management

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), establishes rules for credit reporting agencies (CRAs) directing how consumer information must be reported. CRAs include agencies like the major credit bureaus, tenant screening companies and check verification services. The information used in consumer credit reports is used by third parties in making determinations about a consumer’s eligibility for credit, insurance rates, employment and housing.[i] The Furnisher Rules for information collection and use in connection with the FCRA is codified in a section of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), titled, Part 660 – Duties of Furnishers of Information to Consumer Reporting Agencies.[ii] The Furnisher Rules require CRAs to establish and implement reasonable policies and procedures for consumers to make direct disputes of information, as well as policies to ensure the accuracy and integrity of furnished information.

About the National Consumer Assistance Plan

The three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are participants in the National Consumer Assistance Plan, which is designed to improve the collection of complete and accurate consumer information, as well as to make the process of information collection and management transparent to consumers. The plan includes provisions for updates to the mandatory reporting requirements and procedures for collecting consumer data.

The plan impacts the organizations who furnish data to the credit bureaus, namely collection agencies, debt buyers and as well, those who are reporters of authorized user data. Some of the new rules under the plan take effect on June 15, 2016, and others are effective September 15, 2017.[iii] The plan rules and changes were provided to data furnishers in March to help in transitioning to the new requirements to accomplish accuracy and transparency goals in the best interests of consumers.

Examples of new requirements on credit bureaus

Collection agencies and debt buyers are required to implement data reporting changes before the effective dates as follows:

  1. Report the name of the Original Creditor and Creditor Classification Code – 06/15/2016
  2. Do not report a debt that did not arise from a contract or agreement to pay – 06/15/2016
  3. Report a full file monthly – 06/15/2016
  4. Do not report Medical Debt collection accounts less than 180 days old – 09/15/2017
  5. Report a delete for accounts that are being paid or were paid in full through insurance – 09/15/2017

Additionally, all data furnishers must report using the newly established minimum reporting requirements for consumer personally identifiable information before September 15, 2017, and as well before that date, all reporters of authorized user data must report the full date of birth for new authorized users on all accounts.

Click here for the link to the detailed grid of furnisher rules and effective dates.

The impact of the new rules on CRAs

Changes under the Plan rules should reduce the number of consumer complaints and lawsuits filed against CRAs. The new rules help direct the CRAs to be in compliance with the FCRA requirements. The more transparent process and accuracy measures can prevent the mistakes and credit reporting violations that cause harm to consumers, leading to litigation and FTC investigation and enforcement.

New rules and policy directives often draw critics and the National Consumer Assistance Plan is no exception. Critics of the plan suggest that the implementation of the rules by the CRAs may involve confusion and error in direction. The unintended consequences of new policies and rules often present challenges to organizations working to achieve compliance with rules. Some CRAs could refuse to comply with the rules or purposely make their own interpretations suiting their perceived best interests.

In the event you as a consumer, detect that a CRA such as a collection agency is violating the new rules and the FCRA, you may have a right to sue them and file a complaint with the FTC. The Zamparo Law Group is advocating for consumers whose information is not kept or recorded correctly as required by consumer laws.

As consumer laws change, the Zamparo Law Group publishes articles and resources to help consumers better understand the laws designed to protect them from harm. When the credit bureaus fail to follow the law, the Zamparo Law Group is there to help consumers fight for their rights and recover after harmful violations by the bureaus and other CRAs.

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] FTC website, FCRA’s Furnisher Rule: It’s all about accuracy and integrity.

[ii] CFR, Duties of Furnishers of Information to Consumer Reporting Agencies, Title 16 → Chapter I → Subchapter F → Part 660

[iii] Furnisher Data Reporting and Process Requirement Changes, To All Data Furnishers March 2016.

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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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What exactly is “Consumer Law?”

When we tell people that we are lawyers, they inevitably ask, “What kind of lawyer are you?” When we say that we are consumer lawyers, they quickly move on to another topic of discussion. We find that few people—other lawyers included!—have an accurate conception of what consumer law is. Even other monikers like “consumer rights law” and “consumer protection law” still leave people at a loss concerning what we do.

It’s true: “consumer law” can be a bit confusing because it encompasses so many areas of the law. Generally, however, it deals with issues arising out of consumer credit transactions and deceptive sales practices. These seemingly simple areas involve a host of laws including federal laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Driver Privacy Protection Act, and state laws prohibiting unfair and deceptive business practices, mortgage foreclosure, and fraud, just to name a few!

  1. Defending Debtors’ Rights

Stopping harassment, defending collections lawsuits, providing consumer credit counseling, and working to settle and eliminate consumer debt short of bankruptcy.

  1. Credit Reporting

Fighting the effects of identity theft and employment background check errors, correcting improper credit reporting; advising about bankruptcy, and stopping unauthorized credit inquiries.

  1. Mortgage Lending

Defending foreclosure suits, fighting foreclosure “rescue” scams; stopping predatory lending.

  1. Telephone Consumer Protection Act

Stopping abusive patterns of excessive and harassing collection calls to cell phones without consent.

  1. Unfair and Deceptive Business Practices

Holding businesses accountable for playing fair in the marketplace.

credit card sharksWe once met a client who had been searching online for a lawyer regarding a debt harassment issue that had plagued him for over five years. His searches, frustratingly, consistently led him to personal injury attorneys. Finally, a friend told him to look up “consumer” attorneys. He immediately found our firm and found the help he needed. Don’t let this be you! If any of the above describe what you’re dealing with, contact us today.

As consumer lawyers, we are proud to advocate for and protect the rights of everyday people from all walks of life. We look forward to serving you, too.

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.

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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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