Credit Repair: Who Can View My Credit Report?

Who has legal access to your credit information, and why it is important to know your credit rating.

A credit report contains all sorts of personal information about a person. Credit reporting agencies (CRAs) compile data from banks, credit card companies, lending institutions, collection agencies and bankruptcy courts and link it to your social security number, address, place of employment, and even your telephone number. It is important to know who is looking at your credit report and why.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) dictates who can see your credit report, and under what circumstances. It also governs the way information in your report can be used. According to the FCRA, prospective employers can look at your credit report if you provide written permission (in Vermont, a verbal okay is all that is needed to pull your credit report). Employers look at this information to ensure you are not swimming in debt or otherwise susceptible to steal in an effort to continue living beyond your means. Furthermore, if your finances are out of control, it may signify irresponsibility. Since a positive credit report indicates you are conscientious and reliable, employers take it as a good sign you will behave in the same manner in the workplace.

When you apply for a job, it isn't guaranteed the employer will examine your credit. Applying for credit is a whole other matter. Credit card companies will take a close look at your current trade lines to see if you pay your bills on time. If you are having difficulty paying your current creditors, chances are you are not a good credit risk. Even if you do pay all your bills on time, if your debt-to-income ratio is unfavorable, you may not be awarded the credit card you are seeking. If you are approved for additional credit, the interest rate will be affected by what is in your credit report.



Credit card companies also look at your credit report to send out new account solicitations. The companies ask the CRA to send them the names and addresses of everyone in their files who meet a particular set of criteria. New homeowners or recent purchasers of cars might receive special offers from insurance companies. Insurance companies query the CRAs to send them a list of people who have just borrowed money to pay for these large ticket items - since they probably need to insure them.

Insurance companies also pull your credit when you apply for coverage. Your insurance premium may be adjusted based on your credit score. Check with the state you live in to see if they allow insurance companies to base their rates on your credit. Some policyholders have even been canceled when their insurance company felt their credit score made them a bad insurance risk. Some credit card issuers are following suit and routinely pull credit reports on existing accountholders - and slashing their credit line or closing their account altogether if their credit is slipping.

Any time you apply for a loan, the bank or lending institution pulls your credit report. This helps them determine your creditworthiness and what interest rate they will be billing you. If you owe child support, any attempts to collect the child support can include pulling a credit report. Remember, even unlisted telephone numbers and addresses stay on your credit report, making you easier to track down when enforcing court orders. Law enforcement can also pull your credit to obtain financial information, though the scope of their authority usually ends at verifying your name and address without a judge's approval. Another state agency with access to your credit report is social services. When applying for welfare benefits, credit reports can be used to check the names of employers and to ensure you are truly in need of public assistance. Finally, potential landlords will check your credit report to minimize the likelihood of having to evict non-paying tenants.

Perhaps the most important person who can access your credit report is YOU. If you believe there is inaccurate information in your file, the credit agencies must provide you with a free report upon request. Anytime you are denied for credit, you need to check the accuracy of the information contained in your credit file. In most cases, you need to grant permission for someone to be able to legally snoop around your credit file. It is best to know what they will find before you allow them to see it.

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