Who Should and Should NOT Have Access to Your Credit Reports

Who Should and Should NOT Have Access to Your Credit Reports

Don’t let anyone trick you, there are only some instances in which you can be required to show your credit report, and even then, only if you give consent to it. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), is the federal statute that was created to ensure accuracy and privacy of consumer information.  Its purpose is to protect consumers from distribution of inaccurate information contained in reports as well as the privacy of their information.  To this end, the FCRA sets guidelines on who can access a report and when the access is permissible. 

Your credit report is private and cannot be viewed by just anyone or any company, until you give permission.  More entities than you think have permission to access your report just by you forming a relationship with them.  While it is no surprise than any company you borrow money from, such as your bank or credit card company have permission to access your report, so does your landlord, utility company, insurance company, collection agency and employer (when you give it express consent).

Simply because the FCRA grants a company the authority to access a consumer’s report, does not mean that a company can pull your report at any time.  In fact, the FCRA sets specific guidelines regarding what are permissible purposes to access a consumer report and what are impermissible purposes.  The FCRA lists the following activities as permissible purposes for pulling a consumer report.

  •  Application for credit
  • Loan application
  • Mortgage application
  • Employment background checks (with express written consent from the consumer)
  • Application for insurance
  • Existing creditor reviewing your current status
  • Collection agency for a creditor

When a creditor accesses your credit report without permission or without one of the proper purposes delineated above, it a violation of the FCRA and you are entitled to recover damages.  Some common situations when a creditor or other entity gains access to your credit report that is not permitted by law include the following:

  •  Employer, potential or existing pulls your credit report without your express written consent
  • Creditor with whom you have a closed and paid account accesses your credit file
  • Creditor for an account on which you were only an “authorized user” pulls your report
  • A collection agency to whom you do not owe any debt accesses your credit file
  • A creditor with whom you have not applied for credit accesses your credit file.
  • A creditor whom you had a debt with that was discharged in bankruptcy pulls your report.
  • A financial institution that accesses a report for promotional purposes, but does not make a firm offer of credit.

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