Who Can See My Credit Report?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates access to your credit report. That's because your credit report contains highly personal information about you, your credit accounts and credit inquiries, as well as negative information such as bankruptcies or accounts in collection.
The FCRA restricts who can look at your credit report and why. A company must have a legitimate reason to view your credit report. In the credit reporting industry, this is referred to as “permissible purpose”. Any organization or individual who obtains a copy of your credit report under false pretenses can be fined and jailed for up to a year.
Businesses and lenders can buy memberships to the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) so they can quickly and easily do a credit history check on potential customers. Credit bureau members have to sign a contract stating that they will only access credit files when considering persons for extensions of credit, employment, or other legitimate business purposes.
The types of organizations that can access credit reports and perform credit history checks include:
- Insurance companies
- Landlords seeking a credit check for renters
- Credit card companies
- Companies with which you are seeking employment (but only with your written consent, and they are not allowed to see your credit score)
- Organizations considering your application for a government license or benefit (but only if the agency is required to consider your financial status)
- State or local child support enforcement agencies
- Government agencies (although typically they can only see your name, address, former addresses and current and former employers)
- Other organizations with which you've initiated business
Potential employers see a different version of your credit report than lenders do. Potential employers conducting a credit check for employment are only concerned with how you manage and repay debt—in other words, your level of financial responsibility. Therefore, they don't need to see as many details on your credit report and do not see your credit score.
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