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Who Can Access Your Credit Report and Background Check

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2012 | Consumer Protection

Your credit report is private.  It contains very personal information about your financial status and reputation among your creditors.  Because of the sensitivity of this information, Congress, in enacting the Fair Credit Reporting Act placed limitations on who may obtain a copy of a consumer’s credit file.  The people or companies that can gain access to your credit report essentially fall into 3 groups, potential and current creditors, potential and current employers, and potential and current insurers.

Creditors: The most obvious is potential and current creditors.  If a finance company or bank receives an application from you for credit or for financing of some sort, be it a credit card, store card, automobile or home, that company has a right to check your credit report before agreeing to provide you that credit.   In addition, if that company does give you the loan you requested, that company is permitted to regularly check into your credit in order to monitor your continued ability to maintain the repayment agreement. 

Employers: When applying for a job, a potential employer can access your credit report. While the potential employer can access a credit report, they can also access other background reports such as criminal background checks.  These other reports are also covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act as we have blogged in the past.  In addition, employers can gain access to a consumers credit report or background report when that employee seeks a promotion.  Employment and promotions within employment can be subject to a successful background check.

Insurers: When applying for any type of insurance, the potential insurer can gain access to your credit report to determine what type of risk you can be.   While insurance companies are permitted to gain access to your credit reports to determine whether they can expect you to continue paying premiums, insurance companies also utilize other reports as background checks to determine what kind of insurance risk you are so that they can set the right rates.  We have blogged about this in the past. 

Can These Inquiries to your Credit Report Harm your Score? Inquiries generally have an effect on your credit score.  The effect is not necessarily large, unless there are a lot of inquiries for different types of credit in a short period of time.  Normally, a rare inquiry into your credit pursuant to an application for credit, employment or insurance will have a small effect on your credit score.  However, when a current creditor with whom you already have a relationship checks up on your credit -typically called an “account review” it does not affect your credit at all. 

When regularly checking your credit report, don’t forget to review the Inquiries section of your credit report to assure only those who have a permissible purpose are gaining access to your report.  If a person or company gains access without a permissible purpose, they may be liable under the Fair Credit Reporting Act for any actual damages you may have suffered, $1,000 for any willful conduct, and any attorneys fees and costs incurred.

If someone has gained access to your credit report without your permission or a proper legal purpose, Contact Us for a free case review.