Your Credit Report – Who is Looking?

You might think your credit report is privileged information – to be given only to those individuals and businesses who have gained your permission. But that isn’t so.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, many entities are allowed to access your credit report.

Potential creditors, of course. You expected that. When you apply for a loan or a credit card, you hand over your Social Security number and give permission. In some cases, you give permission for them to go back for another look at any time.

Credit card holders who were penalized by the universal default provision know all too well what can happen when your credit card issuer decides to check up on you and sees that you’re in arrears on some other credit card or loan.

Employers and potential employers also need your permission to access your credit report. And no, they aren’t given your credit scores. Employers have to review the report and come to their own conclusions.

And then we come to the entities that don’t have to ask for permission…

Collection agencies that are trying to collect a debt from you have the right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to access your credit report without notification to you. They’re checking to see if you’ve paid off some other account or have a large credit line on an unused credit card. These are factors that would indicate that you’ve got money to pay them. They also use your credit report to check for a current address or a new employer.

Utility providers check your credit when you open a new account. They use the information to decide if you’ll need to pay a deposit before they turn on your utilities. Utilities get a “utility score,” which is different from the FICO score used to rate you for a mortgage loan.

Insurance companies get yet another report – one with an insurance score. This practice is being eliminated or severely limited in some states. Insurance companies aren’t happy with that change, as they do believe that consumers with good credit are a safer risk than consumers with poor credit. Policy premiums reflect the belief.

Landlords may not only check your credit report, but may order a more complete background check before handing over the keys. They want to gauge the risk of you running out with unpaid rent due – and they want to assure themselves that their property won’t be used for illegal activities.

Licensing bureaus – Some states allow professional licensing bureaus to check your credit before issuing a license.

While we are all most familiar with FICO scores or some variation of them, credit reporting bureaus actually have a wide variety of credit scoring models. The utility credit score and insurance credit score are but two. Each model is used for a different purpose and gives weight to different factors in your credit history.

Author: Mike Clover

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Disclaimer: This information has been compiled and provided by as an informational service to the public. While our goal is to provide information that will help consumers to manage their credit and debt, this information should not be considered legal advice. Such advice must be specific to the various circumstances of each person's situation, and the general information provided on these pages should not be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.