Are you using your credit reports illegally?

I’m asking this question to highlight an enforcement action announced by the CFPB yesterday against several companies which, if the allegations are true, blatantly violated several sections of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) by obtaining credit reports under false pretenses and passing them around like stewardesses passing  out airline peanuts. I want to highlight the case not only because of its accusations, but because I wanted to provide you an ever so gentle reminder to use your credit reports consistent with the reasons you obtained them in the first place.

15 U.S.C. 1681b(f) permits entities to obtain prescreened credit reports provided that the individuals who qualify under the criteria will receive a firm offer of credit. A “firm offer” is an offer that will be honored subject to certain exceptions. The bottom line is that credit reports are not to be used simply to facilitate marketing, but are instead to be used for legitimate underwriting purposes.

The lawsuit that the CFPB announced yesterday is against several companies, ranging from a mortgage broker to a student loan debt consolidator to a mortgage lender that apparent did not get this memo. For instance, Monster Loans obtained prescreened lists from Experian, ostensibly to offer mortgage loans. There would, of course, be nothing wrong with this if that was all that Monster Loans used these lists for. However, Monster Loans subsequently distributed these lists to third parties, including an entity that specialized in student loan debt consolidation.

 

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