Did you know that at one time, we the American citizens didn’t have access to credit reports? In fact, if you go back to the early 1900s (when some of these credit bureaus started) you will learn that the credit collecting agencies were quite shady. Credit bureaus reported many personal and potentially slanderous details on the lives of people, and were actually comparable to private investigators.
As recently as the 1960s, the credit bureaus still held most of the power when it came to financial reporting. The credit bureaus had total power when it came to collecting financial and personal data and would often times base creditworthiness on a person’s ethnicity, religion and race. They had no reason to answer to any authority, so many consumers were kept in the dark as to why they had to pay high interest rates.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was created in 1970 and was passed as a means to return certain rights back to consumers. The law put limits on credit bureaus and credit reporting agencies, and gave consumers the right to access their own credit report at any time—with at least one free report every year. The law also stated that credit bureaus would purge items that were seven years or older (ten years for bankruptcy status). All disputes cases were ordered to be investigated and resolved within a 30-day time period. The Fair Credit Reporting Act was indeed a major victory for consumers everywhere!
Understanding the history of consumer credit reporting should make you reflect on the tremendous opportunity you have today. You can check your credit file anytime you want using credit-reporting subscription services. You also get one free credit report every year from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. How wonderfully times have changed! Show appreciation for your rights by keeping up to date with your credit score.