Access to private financial information in consumer credit reports is increasing. Your private information is being bundled and sold to almost any entity who claims to have a legitimate purpose. Such access to your credit report is determined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which states a company must have a legitimate purpose to view your credit files.
Credit history has taken a salient role in the everyday lives of consumers. There is literally no getting around your credit history today. Banks, lenders and credit card companies are not the only ones pulling credit reports.
You may be surprised at how many companies and organizations use your credit history to make decisions. It is important to know that any company, organization, business or individual who obtains your credit report under false pretenses can be fined or even jailed under the law.
Who has access to your credit history?
Anyone with a legitimate business purpose such as:
- Employers and potential employers
- Auto, Home and Life Insurance Companies
- Cable and Satellite Companies
- Utility Companies (Telephone, Electric and Gas)
- Cell Phone Providers
- Banks, Lenders, Credit Card Issuers
- Mortgage lenders
- Auto lenders, auto dealerships
- Student Loan Lenders
- Companies that you have a credit account with can regularly monitor your credit
- Government agencies considering you for licensing
- State and Local Child Support Enforcement Agencies
- Collection Agencies
- Judgment creditors
- Entities that have a court order
With so many entities potentially looking at your credit you must know what they are viewing. It has become imperative that you rid your credit files of any errors, inaccurate and outdated information that can be viewed as negative. Learn how to effectively dispute inaccurate information in your credit reports.
Who Cannot Look at Your Credit Report?
Except for the companies, people and agencies listed above, most other people and businesses cannot legally request a copy of your credit report. Your credit report may not be used in divorce, child custody, immigration, and other legal proceedings. Nor can district attorneys look at your report to investigate civil or criminal cases.
Detecting unauthorized inquiries
In order to detect who has accessed your credit report you must have a current copy to review. Look for unfamiliar companies and names under the list of inquiries. Most hard inquiries should be initiated by you applying for credit. If you find an unfamiliar company under the “Hard Inquiry” section on your credit report you may need to take action. Other inquiries on your credit report do not impact your credit score, these are known as “Soft Inquiries.” Soft inquiries may show up as “Promotional Reviews” where a company is looking to market their financial product to you. A soft inquiry may also be an “Account Review” where creditors you currently have accounts with periodically review your credit reports. If someone has requested your report illegally, you may be able to sue for violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act
The FACT Act
In accordance with the federal FACT Act, consumers are able to get a free copy of their credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Go online at annualcreditreport.com or call toll free at (877) 322-8228. You do not have to order all three credit reports at one time. You can choose to stagger your free reports over the course of a year.
The FACT Act is not the only way to get a free credit report. You are entitled to a free credit report if you have experienced one of the following:
- Denied credit in the last 60 days
- Unemployed and intend to apply for employment in the next 60 days
- You are on public welfare assistance
- If you believe your file contains inaccurate information due to fraud or identity theft
- Denied employment based upon information contained in your credit report
- If your report has been updated or revised based upon an investigation you requested
Freeze your credit reports
Some states offer consumers the option to “freeze” their credit report so it can only be accessed in very limited situations. Victims of identity theft can request this option for free if a police report is provided to the credit reporting agencies. For other consumers who are not victims of identity theft, you can request a “freeze” for a fee.
Marketing and Pre-Approved Offers
The credit bureaus engage in the practice of selling lists for use in “pre-approved” credit and insurance offers. Consumers who receive pre-approved credit offers are often on these marketing lists. A pre-approved offer does not necessarily mean a credit report will not be pulled. If you respond, the creditor may access your credit report before you are actually granted credit. Your application can also be denied at this time.
You have a choice to remove you name from any marketing list compiled by a credit reporting agency. To remove your name from all three credit reporting agencies’ marketing lists you can “opt-out”. Call (888) 5-OPTOUT or (888) 567-8688 to opt out or go online to optoutprescreen.com.