Berger Montague’s credit reporting and background checks practice group litigates on behalf of consumers nationwide to protect them against violations of their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other laws that govern credit reports and background checks.
We are committed to ensuring that credit report and background check information is accurate and that it is sold and used for legal purposes. When your rights are violated by an employer, consumer reporting agency, credit bureau, background check company, landlord, or another report user, our team is here to help.
Our FCRA attorneys have successfully represented hundreds of thousands of consumers across the country and have obtained relief valued in the billions of dollars for our clients.
Our Fair Credit Reporting Act Lawyers Will Protect Your Rights
Employers and creditors are relying more and more on background checks and credit reports when making hiring and firing decisions. Unfortunately, the consumer reporting agencies that prepare those reports are often more concerned with profits than with accuracy.
If you’ve fallen victim to inaccurate, unfair, or discriminatory credit reports or background checks, our FCRA attorneys can help you seek justice. The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law that governs credit reports, background checks, and many other reports containing information about individuals.
In short, the law requires that reports are
- Only used for specific purposes
- Accessible to consumers on request
- Do not contain adverse information that is more than seven years old (except for convictions of crimes)
Our lawyers are closely familiar with the rights provided by the Fair Credit Reporting Act and will work tirelessly to protect your financial and social information. They’ll help you dispute inaccurate information on your report so that future reports can be accurate. They can also help you file a claim for money damages.
Many consumers do not realize how valuable claims related to background reports can be and are pleasantly surprised by the amounts we are able to recover on their behalf.
Damages a Credit Reporting Lawyer Can Win for You
In addition to getting your credit report or criminal history changed through the dispute process, your FCRA attorney can also help you win compensation for the losses you’ve incurred.
If you were denied a job because of an inaccurate background check, if your bank lowered your credit limit because of a credit reporting error, or if you experienced any other financial harm, you’re entitled to receive economic damages. Economic damages refer to the compensation you’re owed for tangible, often monetary, losses.
If a reporting inaccuracy has affected your life in such a way that you’ve begun to experience anxiety, emotional distress, or any other negative mental health outcome, an FCRA attorney can help you win non-economic damages.
Non-economic damages are meant to compensate for the emotional turmoil you’re experiencing and cover your mental health counseling costs. If a reporting error has taken a toll on your mental health, our Fair Credit Reporting Act lawyers can take the actions necessary to give you peace of mind.
Additional Damages Our FCRA Lawyers Can Secure
In addition to providing damages for financial losses and emotional distress, the Fair Credit Reporting Act also provides for statutory damages of up to $1,000 per violation, plus punitive damages, which can be substantially larger.
In order to obtain statutory damages, the consumer reporting agency’s action must have been “willful,” which is a relatively low bar. It merely requires that the conduct was reckless or intentional. Punitive damages are meant to punish and deter companies from reporting false information or committing other violations of the law.
One of our Fair Credit Reporting Act lawyers can help you determine which FCRA damages you should pursue.
Background Check and Credit Report Errors Our Credit Report Lawyers Can Help You With
Inaccurate information on a background check or credit report can cut you off from the opportunities you need to advance your career, secure financial resources, make major purchases, and pay your bills.
If you’ve recently learned that your background check or credit report contains incorrect or misleading information, our FCRA attorneys can help you set the record straight. They’ll be able to help fix and seek compensation for any of the following background report errors and credit report errors:
- Records or accounts that do not belong to you: If someone who has the same or similar name as you is convicted of a crime or has failed to pay on an account, their negative information may show up on your report. This is often the result of lax matching procedures used by background check and credit reporting companies, who will often report information based only on partial matches to your personally identifying information (name, Social Security number, address, date of birth, etc.).
- Duplicate information: Sometimes, criminal convictions or credit accounts can be duplicated on your report, giving the impression that your criminal history or credit utilization is more extensive than it actually is.
- Inaccurate information: You may see an account or tax lien or judgment that you have paid still being reported as unpaid. As to criminal records, you might see misdemeanors being misreported as felonies.
- Sealed charges: Charges that have been expunged or sealed should not show up on your background report. If they do, one of our FCRA attorneys can help you remove them.
- Outdated information: As a general rule, adverse information older than seven years is not allowed to be included in background reports. There is an exception for convictions of crimes, but consumer reporting agencies often include information other than convictions, such as charges that were reduced, arrests that did not result in charges, or non-criminal convictions (i.e. civil ordinance violations). Old credit accounts should drop off your report seven years after they first become delinquent.
One of our FCRA lawyers could have fixed this employee’s background check error before their boss saw it and decided to fire them. If you’ve discovered a false credit report, a credit reporting lawyer from our firm can help you change it before your employer sees it.
An FCRA Attorney Can Help You Fix Your Credit Report if It Says You’re Deceased
As strange as it may sound, many individuals, who are alive and well, have suffered the consequences of having a deceased indicator mistakenly added to their credit report. Having a deceased indicator on your report can make applying for mortgages and loans nearly impossible, as creditors will likely assume you are trying to use a dead person’s identity to obtain credit.
If you’ve discovered a deceased indicator on your credit report, one of our FCRA attorneys can work with the credit bureaus and other consumer reporting agencies to have it removed. They’ll also help you calculate the losses you’ve incurred as a result of the mistake and file a claim for the relevant damages.
Praise for Berger Montague’s Fair Credit Reporting Act Lawyers
The FCRA attorneys at our firm have received plenty of positive testimonials from the distinguished judges we’ve worked with in the past. Here’s what they have to say about our team at Berger Montague:
From Judge Harold E. Kahn, Dep’t 302, Superior Court of Cal., San Fran. Cnty.:
“You’re very articulate on this issue. … Obviously, you’re very thoughtful and you have given it a great deal of thought. …You are extraordinarily impressive. …You have allayed all of my concerns and have persuaded me that this is an important issue, and that you have done a great service to the class. And for that reason, I am going to approve your settlement in all respects… And I congratulate you on your excellent work.”
Nov. 7, 2017, Final Approval Hearing, Nesbitt v. Postmates, Inc., No. CGC-15-547146.
From Judge Laurie J. Michelson, United States District Court, E.D. Mich.:
“Counsel’s quality of work in this case was high. The Court has been impressed with counsel’s in-court arguments. And counsel has provided the Court with quality briefing as well.”
Aug. 11, 2017, Opinion & Order on Mtn. for Atty. Fees, and Mtn. for Final Approval, Hillson v. Kelly Services, Inc., No. 15-cv-10803.
From Magistrate Judge Terence P. Kemp, United States District Court, S.D. Ohio:
“The parties in this case are represented by counsel with substantial experience in class action litigation, and FCRA cases in particular. … Class Counsel are experienced and knowledgeable in FCRA litigation, are skilled, and are in good standing.”
June 30, 2017, Report & Recomm’n. on Final Approval, Rubio-Delgado v. Aerotek, Inc., No. 16-cv-1066.
Our FCRA Attorneys Work for Contingency Fees
Berger Montague’s background check and credit reporting cases are brought on a contingency fee basis. That means our clients do not pay out-of-pocket attorneys’ fees. Instead, our attorneys’ fees and costs are paid from the recovery obtained, usually as a percentage. We only get paid unless and until we win your case.
As for litigation costs, the Fair Credit Reporting Act provides for fee-shifting under the statute. What this means is that when we win your case, the defendant is responsible for covering your litigation fees.
Contact an Attorney for False Credit Reporting to Inquire About an Individual or Class Action Lawsuit
If you’ve been negatively affected by a credit report or background check inaccuracy, our FCRA lawyers at Berger Montague are eager to help you fix the error and obtain damages from the appropriate entity.
You can reach us by filling out the contact form on our website, or you can get in touch with our Credit Reporting and Background Checks Act attorneys directly.
The Department Chair, E. Michelle Drake, can be reached at [email protected].
Credit Reporting & Background Checks FAQs
The FCRA is a federal law that regulates reports that contain information about consumers. It covers traditional credit reports, background checks, and virtually any other sale of data about individuals. The scope of the FCRA is very broad, and it regulates reports prepared to evaluate consumers for employment, credit, insurance, and other similar purposes.
The FCRA contains many consumer protections. The statute requires that “consumer reporting agencies” (background check and credit reporting agencies) use reasonable procedures to assure maximum accuracy in their reports. The law also restricts the sale of reports only to people who have a legally acceptable reason for receiving the reports.
The FCRA requires that a consumer reporting agency reinvestigate any disputed information free of charge. It gives consumers a right to obtain a copy of their own report free of charge, and it prohibits reporting adverse information that is older than seven years.
It also allows individuals to file lawsuits against the users or creators of a report if the FCRA’s rules are not followed. It provides for actual damages, punitive damages, statutory damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
Consumer reporting agencies are companies that compile reports about people for credit, employment, housing, and other purposes. They may also be called background check companies, tenant screening companies, credit reporting agencies, or credit reporting bureaus.
Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are some of the largest and best-known credit reporting agencies. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau publishes a list of specialty consumer reporting agencies. All these agencies are obligated to follow the FCRA’s rules.
We are always happy to help concerned consumers obtain a copy of their credit reports. The easiest way to monitor your credit is to request a free report from one of the three major bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
You are entitled to a free annual report from each of the three major bureaus. We recommend requesting a report from one bureau at a time so that you can receive a report once every four months. You can also access free reports online at www.annualcreditreport.com, or you can contact us, and we’ll help you obtain a copy of your report.
You can also monitor your bank and credit card statements for suspicious activity or sign up for a credit monitoring service to help detect fraud and identity theft.
In addition to being able to obtain a free copy of your credit report, you are also entitled to your consumer file from any consumer reporting agency–including background check companies, tenant screening agencies, and other specialty consumer reporting agencies. We can help you request and obtain these files.
A credit score is a three-digit number that represents how likely it is that a given consumer will be able to repay their debt. Credit scores are based on things like how often a consumer makes payments on time and how many of their accounts are in good standing.
A few steps you can take to improve your credit score include:
- Paying your monthly bills and loan payments on time
- Minimizing the amount of debt you take on
- Not carrying a balance on your credit cards
- Not having too many lines of credit open
- Monitoring your credit
The Fair Credit Reporting Act limits the people who can obtain credit reports to those who have a permissible purpose. Normally, this means potential creditors, landlords, and employers.
Current and potential employers can access your consumer report, but only with your written permission. In rare circumstances, an employer could obtain a background check without permission, but only to investigate misconduct by a current employee.
Even then, the employer is required to give the employee notice of the report if they intend to use it to take an adverse action, such as terminating the employee. If you’re worried about getting fired over an inaccuracy on your criminal history report, our FCRA lawyers can help you get it corrected.
There are other entities that can access your report without permission, but they need a legitimate reason to do so. For example, banks, credit card companies, and landlords can view your report, but only if you complete a transaction or enter a credit relationship with them.
If you discover that a consumer reporting agency has produced a report on you that contains inaccuracies, you have a right to dispute it. Under the FCRA, reporting agencies are required to reinvestigate any disputed information within 30 days of receiving a claim.
Our FCRA attorneys can help you complete this sometimes complex process. It is important that your dispute includes all information the agency needs in order to resolve your claim, and definitely worthwhile to obtain professional help with this process.
Many agencies have forms you can use to submit a dispute, or you can send a letter that describes the dispute. To ensure they receive your letter, send it by certified mail with a return receipt requested. You can also attach copies of documents that show the information is incorrect. Once the investigation is complete, the agency is required to send you the results.
If incorrect information is popping up on reports from different agencies, the problem might be with the government’s records. To find out which government agency is the source of the problem, request a copy of your consumer file from the consumer reporting agency. Then, you can contact the relevant government officials and have them correct your information.
Many states have laws protecting people with criminal records from discrimination. If you applied for a job, apartment, or line of credit and were denied based on your criminal background, our Fair Credit Reporting Act lawyers can help you file a claim for monetary damages.
It’s important to note that consumer reporting agencies can only report two categories of criminal information to employers: 1) convictions and 2) non-convictions within the last seven years from the date of the report.
It is illegal to report a non-conviction (such as a dismissed charge, a charge that was subsequently reduced, a non-criminal traffic citation, or an arrest) that is older than seven years.
If an employer is going to use an individual’s background check as a basis for an adverse employment-related decision, such as not hiring, terminating, or demoting, the employer must provide notice to the individual and include a copy of the background check prior to taking that adverse action.
Many clients come to us wanting their credit reports fixed and don’t often realize the financial implications of their cases. We’ve successfully won numerous cases that resulted in high-value monetary damages, including:
Rubio-Delgado v. Aerotek, Inc., No. 16-cv-1066 (S.D. Ohio). FCRA class action alleging violations by an employer regarding the disclosure and authorization provided to applicants and current employees, as well as the provision of notice to applicants and employees if adverse action was based on a background check, resulting in a $15 million settlement.
Hillson v. Kelly Services, Inc., No. 15-cv-10803 (E.D. Mich.). FCRA class action alleging similar violations by an employer as those in Aerotek, resulting in a $6.749 million settlement.
Ernst v. DISH Network, LLC & Sterling Infosystems, Inc., No. 12-cv-8794 (S.D.N.Y.). FCRA class action alleging violations by an employer regarding the disclosure and authorization provided to contractors, resulting in a $1.75 million settlement with the employer.
Nesbitt v. Postmates, Inc., No. CGC-15-547146 (Cal. Super. Ct., San Fran. Cnty.). FCRA class action alleging violations by an employer regarding the disclosure and authorization provided to applicants and current employees, as well as the provision of notice to applicants and employees if adverse action was based on a background check, resulting in a $2.5 million settlement.
Halvorson v. TalentBin, Inc., No. 15-cv-5166 (N.D. Cal.). FCRA class action alleging violations by an online data aggregator regarding its obligations to notify users of its profiles about FCRA regulations and to obtain certifications from those users regarding compliance with the FCRA, resulting in a $1.15 million settlement.
Legrand v. IntelliCorp Records, Inc., No. 15-cv-2091 (N.D. Ohio). FCRA class action alleging violations by a consumer reporting agency regarding the accuracy of its reports, resulting in a $1.1 million settlement.
We are one of the largest plaintiff-side law firms in the U.S. With more than 65 attorneys, we have plentiful resources to staff large and complex cases as well as smaller but equally important matters. Having a deep bench of attorneys is critical to effectively litigating our class actions, which generally take several years to resolve.
Berger Montague is the rare class action firm that has tried and won multiple class action jury trials. We have the expertise to bring our cases to trial if meaningful settlements cannot be reached earlier in the litigation.
We have a 50-plus-year history—much longer than the vast majority of our competitors. With our thorough understanding of class actions, we litigate our cases from a position of strength, using time-tested approaches and insights. Throughout our history, we have cultivated strong relationships with other class action firms, with whom we partner in many of our cases.
Our commitment to Fair Credit Reporting Act cases is longstanding, and we have a demonstrated track record of success in litigating these cases. Department Chair E. Michelle Drake is a Harvard Law School graduate who speaks nationally about Fair Credit Reporting Act cases.
She sits on the board of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, has authored a book chapter on background checks, and has served as lead counsel in dozens of Fair Credit Reporting Act matters. Throughout the course of her career, she has achieved recoveries valued in the billions of dollars for her clients.
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