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Consumers must be guaranteed that disputed informa*. investigated by the credit bureau rapidly within 3 credit bureaus will be required to take into acco that the consumer provides, and that the bureaus established and publicly available procedures in investigation.
o Suppliers of Information
Often, consumers get information deleted fror
Too often, when a consumer does pay for
Since creditors often deny credit
The fact that the credit bu:. millions of dollars exploiting tr to develop mailing lists for jun prohibitions demonstrates that you Chairman, is critical.
Let me also say that I have willingness on the part of the in appropriate and workable amendmer hopes that they can kill any cha to enact it. I would suggest that counterproductive approach.
for this opportunity to testify on the the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Without sue of how personal credit records can be As consumers have against their misuse, ideration. I would like to express my he opportunity to work with you, and for ution that your staff have extended to
R. 3740 last November, I have received personal credit information being misused tions of consumers. Yet, the Fair Credit osed to restrict the way that credit records ed.
20 years ago, when credit bureaus kept their is. Now they consist of huge interconnected Chat contain incredible volumes of information.
Suters has made collecting and manipulating
, or problems. What personal credit records can whether they are accurate.
siness Week reporter examined the credit files of Dan Quayle and one of our House colleagues. The reports that a woman's unlisted phone number was credit records by a man who wanted to date her. also reports that a major issuer of credit cards stomer's checking account and cut off his account lieved that he did not have enough money to pay a ey had not even issued yet.
Feet Journal recently reported that employers are o use credit reports to screen job applicants. to the story, many employers appear to violate even the isclosure requirements, by not explicitly informing applicants that their credit records had been used.
acords are more than just account numbers. They are a 's reputation. For example, by using this information, is of information about his or her personal habits, buying es, or lifestyle can be determined. It is one thing for formation to be collected and used with the permission and ige of a consumer, but it is quite another for this to be Secretly and behind his or her back.
All of us have had our credit records checked without our knowledge or consent. As an example, the bank that offers a consumer a pre-approved line of credit has examined the credit file before writing to the person.
There are minimal restrictions on what credit records can be used for, and a credit bureau's imagination is the only real limit on what it can do with the information. It really makes no difference whether credit records are checked by computer or by hand. A consumer's privacy has been violated regardless of the method used.
Credit information can easily be combined with demographic data and other information to create a compete picture of an individual's life.
While one credit bureau proudly states that it keeps credit information in a different state from other types of data, even my small Congressional office has a computer that can transfer data between Washington and New Jersey.
A company can request a mailing list of all Union County, New Jersey residents with incomes of over $50,000, and unused credit lines of at least $10,000 on existing bank credit cards, who already have certain local department store credit cards, and who have two or more children.
While banks that issue credit cards get most of the attention, the company requesting such a list could be a realtor specializing in time-share vacation homes, or a mail order clothing retailer. One of my staff members reports being harassed by a auto dealer offering pre-approved financing on certain car models.
Since credit bureaus make huge profits by finding new ways to sell personal credit records, they have shown no interest in seriously protecting a consumer's privacy. These records are valuable to anyone, including swindlers and unscrupulous business people, who want to find out about a person's financial condition or lifestyle. As the Business Week story showed, it is only too easy to get this type of information. It is time to stop this practice now.
Many of these personal credit histories are not accurate, and even if a consumer does find out that his credit record has false or inaccurate information, it can be very difficult for the consumer to have errors corrected.
Corrections can take months. Credit bureaus collect information by computer, but corrections have to be done by hand. kept costs down by making it hard for consumers to get and correct their files. There are three different national data bases, and each must be corrected separately. Meanwhile, consumers suffer embarrassment and could be unjustly denied jobs, apartments, credit purchases, etc.
A consumer who applies for a mortgage, and finds that his credit record includes overdue accounts from department stores in cities that he has never visited, may find that it takes an incredible amount of effort to correct his credit history. If he does correct one set of records, he may find that an equal amount of work may be required to clear his record with the other two credit reporting companies.
Finally, a consumer may apply for a mortgage and find that his credit record includes one account which accurately reported a delinquency through an error that the consumer made several years ago. However, because there is no requirement that the consumer be notified that he has been reported to a credit bureau, he may be completley unaware of his error until after the mortgage is denied.
My legislation, H.R. 3740, includes several specific reforms. Many of them are also included in your bill, H.R. 4213. I believe that a thorough reform of the Fair Credit Reporting Act is long overdue, and I look forward to working with you as this effort continues through Congress.
I believe that the final bill should include:
DISCLOSURES TO CONSUMERS:
Creditors should be required to inform consumers in writing at the beginning of a credit relationship what information will be forwarded to a credit bureau in the event of late payments.
Creditors should be required to inform consumers when they have been reported to a credit bureau by placing a notation on their next account statement.
Credit bureaus should be required to provide consumers on demand with a free copy of their credit record. Consumers will then be able to check the accuracy of their records. This will also eliminate a provision that allows credit bureaus to provide only the "nature and substance" of the report instead of an actual copy.
A consumer should be notified any time that a credit report is used.
All disclosures that a consumer has been denied a transaction based on credit records should be in writing, and include a copy of the credit report, a notice of rights under the FCRA and the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all three major credit reporting bureaus.
The current "legitimate business needs" criteria for
There is more at stake here than just credit prescreens. If the Subcommittee chooses to still allow credit prescreens, I. hope that you prohibit the use of credit records for other marketing purposes. Credit records are not supposed to be used to sell clothes, cars or real estate.
Even in a credit prescreen, a large and clear notation should be required stating that an individual's credit records have been examined. In addition, an easy way to prevent future uses of this information should be provided, including at the least, a toll-free phone number and a central clearing house that will inform all three major credit bureaus of the consumer's wishes. The law should also require the credit bureaus to respect the consumer's desire for privacy.
III. INFORMATION THAT CAN BE COLLECTED:
The current provision that allows information to be
The current provision that requires all information to be kept up to seven years should be changed to a sliding scale that would retain serious credit problems up to seven years, but require less serious problems to be purged from a record earlier.
ACCURACY OF INFORMATION:
An FTC study should be mandated to recommend procedures for credit bureaus to reach the maximum possible accuracy in the information that they collect.
Any information contested by the consumer should be required to be reinvestigated within 30 days. Currently, there is no requirement to ensure a timely correction.