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Who Can Legally View Your Credit Report?
There is no bigger financial indicator of your creditworthiness than your credit score. But banks aren’t the only ones looking at it.
Your credit score provides a comprehensive financial history. Because this summary can significantly impact your life, it’s essential to know who can see this report and when.
First, What Exactly Is a Credit Report?
Your credit report contains information about your credit activity and status. A credit report will include personal information, like your name, address, and Social Security number. It will also have data about your accounts, missed payments, credit inquiries, bankruptcies, and lawsuits.
Lenders use these reports to help decide if they will loan you money, what interest rates to offer, and whether you meet the terms of an existing account.
But your credit ‘worthiness’ affects more than mortgage rates and car loans. Any number of entities may have cause to review your credit report to determine whether to offer you insurance, rent an apartment, or as a condition of employment.
Who Has Access to Your Credit Report?
Credit reporting companies, also known as credit bureaus, compile credit reports based on the financial data they collect. But there are restrictions about who and when it can be accessed.
Specifically, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law about who can access your credit report and for what reasons. Under the FCRA, any company or organization with a “permissible purpose” can obtain your credit report.
This included landlords, mortgage lenders, and employers conducting a background check, but the following are generally permitted to access your credit report.
- Creditors or potential creditors for loans, mortgages, credit cards, or other financial instruments
- Utility companies
- Potential employers
- Insurance companies
- Collection agencies
- Government agencies
- Organizations considering an application for a government license or benefit that requires a financial status inquiry
- Child support agencies
- Judgment creditors
- Any other entity with a court order (although this is very rarely granted and not for divorce, child custody, immigration, criminal prosecutions, or further legal proceedings)
When Can My Credit Report Be Accessed?
While various entities can potentially access your credit report, they don’t have free rein to look at it whenever they want. The FCRA states that a company must have a legitimate reason to view your credit report at any time. Generally, this requires your written permission or a specific action by you that legally triggers an inquiry into your credit history.
The only time a specific signature for permission is required is when potential employers start a credit inquiry, you often will be notified before a credit inquiry is made for non-collection actions.
Here are the common reasons the FCRA lists as permissible times to access a credit report:
- For a potential creditor to assess the risk in offering a requested loan, line of credit, or insurance polity
- When a firm offer of credit or insurance is extended regardless of your initiation
- For a potential investor to assess the risk of a current obligation
- When managing the risk of current credit or insurance accounts
- During collections proceedings related to a delinquent credit account
- In relation to certain business transactions initiated by you
- In response to a court order or a subpoena
- To make a child support determination
- In response to your application for a license or benefit granted by the government that requires financial inquiry
- For employment purposes (only with your written permission)
- Any time you give written instructions for its release
When Is Viewing My Credit Report Illegal?
Accessing a credit report for any other reason is illegal under the FCRA. Any organization or person who commits an FCRA violation by looking at your credit report for invalid reasons or under false pretenses can be fined and jailed.
Contrary to some misconceptions, you cannot find someone’s credit report with a basic Google search, nor is it publicly available. If someone uses your personal information to get your credit report, they may be liable for damages.
Can I See Who Viewed My Credit Report?
The credit reporting agencies responsible for your credit report must also track inquiries about your credit and document who accessed your information. For example, when a bank evaluates your credit before approving a line of credit, this action should be listed on your credit report.
How to View My Credit Report
Even though there are various legitimate reasons to access your credit report, people should be conscious of who is viewing their credit history and what is listed. To protect against possible identity theft and mistakes in your credit history, you can get a free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. You are permitted one free report every 12 months from the three major credit reporting agencies.
Was Your Credit Report Accessed Illegally? LHA Can Help.
You might have the right to take action if your credit report was accessed for an invalid reason, especially since many inquiries can hurt your credit score. If you suspect your credit report has been misused, contact the Consumer law attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates.
Call 888-726-3181 for a free consultation today.