Below are excerpts of information contained in the form that must be provided to applicants on whose background the employer is checking. The full form is available from all credit and background checking agencies.

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is designed to promote accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of every "consumer reporting agency" (CRA). Most CRAs are credit bureaus that gather and sell information about you — such as if you pay your bills on time or have filed bankruptcy — to creditors, employers, landlords, and other businesses. You can find the complete text of the FCRA, 15 U.S.C. 1681-1681u, at the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site, The FCRA gives you specific rights as outlined below. You may have additional rights under state law. You may contact a state or local consumer protection agency or a state attorney general to learn those rights.

  • You must be told if information in your file has been used against you. Anyone who uses information from a CRA to take action against you, such as denying credit, insurance or employment, must tell you and give you the name, address, and phone number of the CRA that provided the report.

  • You can find out what is in your file. At your request, a CRA must give you the information in your file, and a list of everyone who has requested it recently.

  • You can dispute inaccurate information with the CRA.
    If you tell a CRA that your file contains inaccurate information, the CRA must investigate the items (usually within thirty days). If the CRA’s investigation does not resolve the dispute, you may add a brief statement to your file.

  • Inaccurate information must be corrected or deleted. A CRA must remove or correct inaccurate or unverified information from its files, usually within thirty days . . .

  • You can dispute inaccurate items with the source of the information . . .

  • Outdated information may not be reported. In most cases, a CRA may not report negative information that is more than seven years old; ten years for bankruptcies.

  • Access to Your File is Limited. A CRA may provide information about you only to people with a need recognized by the FCRA . . .

  • Your consent is required for reports that are provided to employers . . .

  • You may choose to exclude your name from CRA lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers. Creditors and insurers may use file information as the basis for sending you unsolicited offers of credit or insurance. Such offers must include a toll-free number for you to have your name and address removed from future lists . . 

  • You may seek damages from violators. If a CRA, a user or (in some cases) a provider of CRA data, violates the FCRA, you may sue them in state or federal court.

Originally published in the 1999 Fall issue of The CampLine.