Who’s Looking At Your Credit Report?
By Jill Terry
Most of us know what credit reports are, but we don’t always know who’s looking at them.
According to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), anyone with a “legitimate business reason” can access your credit report. People with such reasons generally fall into one of the following categories:
- Persons or places considering granting you credit
- Your request to see your report
- Court orders
- Insurance companies
- Government requests (State child support agencies, the FBI, etc.)
- Employers and potential employers
- Companies where you have a credit account (for account monitoring purposes)
- Companies who want to market “pre-approved” credit cards to you
Your Permission–Expressed or Implied?
Ironically, you are one of the few people who must ask permission to access your credit report. To get a copy of your report for your own use, you must specifically request it and pay for it (unless you were declined credit because of information contained on the report).
Other people or entities either don’t need to ask permission or simply need to notify you that they will be accessing your credit report. Employers and potential employers have to provide you with a clear and conspicuous written disclosure of their intent to obtain your credit report, and you must sign it to authorize procurement. If the employer takes any adverse action on the basis of the contents of your credit report, you are entitled to a free copy of your report and a description of your rights. If you sign a release with your employer, they are no longer required to tell you each time they run a credit check on you.
Would you like to put an end to the flood of “pre-approved” credit card solicitations? There is a way, and under Federal law, you have the right to “opt out” of such solicitations.
Here’s how it works:
Marketing firms that represent banks and insurance companies typically specify the credit profiles they’re looking for in prospective customers. Then, credit-reporting agencies draw up lists of consumers who satisfy the criteria and sell the lists to the marketing firms. You have the option to exclude yourself from those lists. Simply notify the credit bureaus that you don’t consent to any use of your report in any credit or insurance transaction that you don’t initiate. Each credit bureau has its own “opt out” notification system designed for this purpose, so inquire at each bureau to find out the procedure. Your notification will keep your credit report away from marketing firms for two years. After that, you must file a new notification.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to get a copy of your credit report periodically just to see who’s been checking you out. Other than the marketing firms mentioned above, every other viewer of your report must leave behind an “inquiry,” which shows the date your report was provided to them. If you can’t always control who’s looking at your report, at least you can identify them after the fact.