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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

15 U.S.C. 1681a - part 8

Here we go with part 8 of my explanation of 15 U.S.C. 1681a - the definition section of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The next definition is subsection (p) "consumer reporting agency that compiles and maintains files on consumers on a nationwide basis".

"(p) The term 'consumer reporting agency that compiles and maintains files on consumers on a nationwide basis' means a consumer reporting agency that regularly engages in the practice of assembling or evaluating, and maintaining, for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to third parties bearing on a consumer's credit worthiness, credit standing, or credit capacity, each of the following regarding consumers residing nationwide:

(1) Public record information.

(2) Credit account information from persons who furnish that information regularly and in the ordinary course of business."

[When thinking about consumer reporting agencies, most people only think of the big three - i.e. Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. But there are many consumer reporting agencies. There used to be hundreds until the big three started buying them up and absorbing them into themselves. Now, there are still many smaller consumer reporting agencies, but most of these do not maintain their own consumer files but instead access the big three's files and prepare 3 in 1 consumer reports for mortgage lenders, automobile finance companies, etc. One exception is CSC, which is a consumer reporting agency that "owns" the credit files compiled by Equifax regarding consumers from approximately 15 states. The credit files of these consumers reside on Equifax's computer but are "owned" and "maintained" by CSC.

The only consumer reporting agencies that fall under the definition of subsection (p) are the big three and certain non-traditional consumer reporting agencies such as Telecheck, which compiles information regarding consumers' check writing histories.]

"(q) Definitions relating to fraud alerts.

(1) The term 'active duty military consumer' means a consumer in military services who --

(A) is on active duty (as definied in section 101(d)(1) of title 10, United States Code) or is a reservist performing duty under a call or order to active duty under a provision of law referred to in section 101(a)(13) of title 10, United States Code; and

(B) is assigned to service away from the usual duty station of the consumer."

[This definition includes any active military serviceman stations away from his or her home and any reservist called up and assigned away from his or her home.]

"(3) The term 'identity theft' means a fraud committed using the identifying information of another person, subject to such further definition as the Commission may prescribe, by regulation."

[i.e. when an identity thief uses any item of the personal information (i.e. name, Social Security number, date of birth, etc.) of a consumer to commit a fraud such as opening a fraudulent credit account.]

"(4) The term 'identity theft report' has the meaning given that term by rule of the Commission, and means, at a minimum, a report - -

(A) that alleges an identity theft;

(B) that is a copy of an official, valid report filed by a consumer with an appropriate Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency, including the United States Postal Inspection Service, or such other government agency deemed appropriate by the Commission; and

(C) the filing of which subjects the person filing the report to criminal penalties relating to the filing of false information if, in fact, the information in the report is false."

[This definition includes police reports that allege identity theft but also includes reports to Federal agencies such as the Secret Service, the FBI and the United States Postal Inspector. I have found in my practice representing victims of identity theft that, many times, police departments refuse to take police reports regarding identity theft. Most of the time, consumers do not realize that they can go to the post office and also make an identity theft report that has the same force and effect as a police report.]

"(5) The term 'new credit plan' means a new account under an open end credit plan (as defined in section 103(i) of the Truth in Lending Act) or a new credit transaction not under an open end credit plan."

[Sounds to me like this means any new account or credit transaction.]

In part 9, I will move on to subsection (r) of 15 U.S.C. 1681a which defines "credit and debit related terms".

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