The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects consumers’ credit reporting information. Much of the information in a consumers’ credit report is sensitive with regard to identity theft issues, is potentially embarrassing if a consumer is delinquent on any payments owed, or is simply no one else’s business. As such, certain provisions of the FCRA prohibit individuals or companies from randomly accessing a consumers’ credit reporting data.
There are certain situations in which a company or individual may pull your credit without your consent, but only if they have a permissible purpose. These permissible purposes are limited, and specifically expressed in the FCRA:
- when you apply for credit, or when a creditor is reviewing or taking collection action on your existing account
- when a potential creditor or insurer intends to extend you offers of credit or insurance (limited use)
when you apply for insurance
employment-related purposes (hiring and firing), only when you give that employer permission to do so
when a court or federal grand jury orders it
when you apply for certain government benefits or licenses that require a review of your financial background, and
when you initiate a business transaction and there is a “legitimate business need” for your credit report that relates to that deal.
Oftentimes a business will request credit reporting information in an effort to engage in targeted marketing. As stated above, the only permissible purpose for marketing is if a company offers you a firm offer of credit, or an offer for insurance under limited circumstances. Debt settlement companies oftentimes use these targeted marketing campaigns, and such campaigns violate the FCRA. If you notice that someone or some entity has impermissibly accessed your credit, you should consult a consumer law attorney immediately. This type of case is complicated, but if you prevail, you are entitled to actual damages, statutory damages between $100 and $1000, and attorney fees.