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Unauthorized Credit Inquiries

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Hello. I live in Washington State. I have ordered my credit report and found out that Bank of America has requested my credit report 12 times in the past two years. The inquiries are listed under the section that says, "The companies listed below obtained information from your consumer report for the purpose of an account review or other business transaction with you." I know that these are soft inquiries, but TransUnion has assured me that Bank of America would have received my FULL and COMPLETE credit report as a result of these inquiries. The problem is, I have never had an account with this bank, and I have never applied for an account with them. I've never had anything to do with them. This means they obtained my report under false pretenses since they certified to TransUnion that they needed it for an account review.

The Federal Trade Commission's Fair Credit Reporting Act says I'm entitled to $1000 per unauthorized inquiry. The bank did not have a permissible purpose to run these inquiries. TransUnion said the bank had to certify to them that they needed my credit report for an account review.

I also found out that the Washington State Legislature has a Fair Credit Reporting Act, title 19 of the Revised Code of Washington. This says that anyone (bank, etc.) who obtains a credit report without a permissible purpose or under false pretenses is liable to the consumer for a monetary penalty of $1000.

I called Bank of America and complained about the inquiries and cited the laws above to their customer service rep. The rep asked for my social security number without telling me what she was going to use it for. She then stated that she had searched their system and found that no account (neither open or closed) with my social security number has existed. She then told me she had pulled my credit report and proceeded to tell me the companies that she saw I had accounts with. She had no permissibible purpose to pull my credit report. There is an FTC opinion letter that says that threatening litigation is not a permissible purpose to pull a credit report. She did not ask my permission to pull my report, and my phone call to complain is not a business transaction that would be considered a permissible purpose. The woman also told me that Washington State law doesn't apply since Bank of America's credit center is in Arizona, and that only Arizona law would apply.

I also searched the internet and found out that the statute of limitations for enforcing the FCRA is two years. Two of my inquiries were in 2000 (February and May) and the rest were in 2001 and 2002. Does this mean that I can't collect for the 2000 inquiries?

I also found this article:

Only once before has the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to a case involving the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). On March 5, 2001, it happened again. In the underlying case of Andrews v.TRW, Inc., 225 F.3d 1063 (9th Cir. 2000), an imposter applied for credit with four companies, each of which requested a copy of a consumer report from TRW. Each time, despite slight accuracies in the information provided by the imposter,TRW released Andrews’ consumer report.

The district court granted partial summary judgment to TRW. The district court held that the FCRA has a two-year statute of limitations, after which a lawsuit alleging a violation could not be brought. The district court found that the FCRA’s two-year statute of limitations began to run at the time of the alleged wrongful disclosures. Since two years had passed since those disclosures were made, Andrews’ lawsuit was barred.

Ninth Circuit Court Judge John T. Noonan reversed the district court’s ruling. Judge Noonan held that the court had to follow the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Holmberg v. Armbrecht, 327 U.S. 392 (1946). In the Holmberg case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the equitable doctrine of discovery applied to every federal statute. The equitable doctrine of discovery means that the statute of limitations for a federal statute begins to run when the party knows of or has reason to know of the injury. Judge Noonan held that the statute of limitations for Andrews did not begin to run until Andrews knew or had reason to know of the allegedly wrongful disclosures.Therefore, the two-year statute of limitations had not lapsed and Andrews should be allowed to proceed with the lawsuit.

On Dec. 22, 2000,TRW filed its petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition asks whether § 1681p of the FCRA contains an explicit exception incorporating the equitable doctrine of discovery, which would permit a suit for violation of the FCRA to be brought within two years of the date of discovery of the injury, even without any willful misrepresentation. On March 5, 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and granted TRW’s petition for certiorari. Andrews v.TRW, Inc., 225 F.3d 1063 (9th Cir. 2000), cert. granted, 69 U.S.L.W. 3460 (U.S. March 5, 2001) (No. 00-1045).


1. Can I collect $12,000 under the FTC's act even though the inquiries were "soft?" Remember, TransUnion told me that the bank would still have received my FULL report, just as though the inquiries were "hard."

2. Can I collect $12,000 under Washington State's Fair Credit Reporting Act even though the credit center that obtained the reports is in Arizona?

3. Can I collect (under the FTC's act or Washington's act) for the credit report pulled by the customer service rep.?

4. Did the statue of limitations begin when the bank made the inquiries or when I found out about the unauthorized inquiries? When would the law consider me to have found out? Would this be at the time I received my credit report in the mail or at the time I found out the unauthorized inquiries violated the law?

Thanks for your time. I apologize for the long post.


[Edit by Jmsb1234 on Saturday, April 12, 2003 @ 10:19 PM]

[Edit by Jmsb1234 on Saturday, April 12, 2003 @ 10:19 PM]

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I honestly can't answer all of your questions - but to explain on the inquiries a bit.

It was my understanding that the CRA is only liable for 25 months concerning inquiries being made. This is the period of time they require creditors to keep documentation supporting the time of inquriy. Anything older than that was determined to be too much for the creditors to bare.

Also when dealing with ID Theft - this is one reason it is so important to view credit reports on a regular basis - they say it is 2 years from the inquiry and not time of discovery. To expect ot file suite.

I am not very much versed on the legal side of matters - but I would suspect on 1st reading that you may very well have a mixed file. And if you see any tradeline information or personal informaiton on your credit report other than inquiries that don't belong to you. That simply asking the CRA to unmix would pull these right off.

You should really look up for your state a credit reporting advicate lawyer that knows more on this subject of going after them for such damages and what laws pertain to help you in the matter.

But you are definately right - about the customer service rep accessing your credit report to investigate the matter was illegal and you would definately have them on this matter.

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