You know that most loan companies will look at your credit report before they offer to finance your home, car, or education. But are these businesses the only people who are allowed to see your credit report, or can your employer, ex-wife, or anyone else gain access to your credit information without your knowledge?
Which Businesses and Lenders Are Allowed to Access Your Credit Report?
Many laws, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and state credit reporting statutes, restrict who is allowed to use and access your credit information. Under current federal law, the following people may legally request a copy of your credit report:
- Current and potential creditors. Any time you apply for a line of credit, such as an auto loan or a credit card, the lender will usually request a copy of your credit report to see if you have a reliable loan repayment history. If the amount you apply for exceeds $150,000 (as is common for housing and mortgage loans), the creditor may also request access to older financial records.
- Collection agencies. Debt collectors may look at your credit report to obtain your contact information or to find out how much you may have in hidden assets.
- Student loan lenders. While federal student loans cannot be denied based on past credit, private student loan companies are still permitted to evaluate credit reports when issuing new or making changes to existing loans.
- Insurance companies. Insurance companies may only look at your credit report when you are applying for a new policy, and may only access the financial aspects of your report. If your credit report contains medical information, credit reporting agencies are forbidden from disclosing the report unless you give your permission. If you are applying for a policy worth over $150,000 (such as life insurance), the creditor may access information that has otherwise been restricted, such as past bankruptcies or outdated financial information.
- Landlords. Landlords may access your entire report or request a report from a specialty consumer reporting agency. These agencies collect limited information on certain transactions, such as your rental history, late housing payments, and evictions.
- Utility companies. While utility companies may access your credit report under FCRA, many state laws prohibit the denial of utility services based on bad credit.
- Employers. Both current and prospective employers may access your credit report as part of the hiring or promotion process. While this evaluation is made available in order to inform an employer about the candidate’s financial situation, it may be incorrectly used against the candidate or employee (and will often remain on file in the employee’s records for future evaluation).
- Government agencies. A government office may examine your credit report if you have applied for public assistance (such as Medicare or Social Security disability), determine the amount of your child support payments, or to investigate potential international terrorism.
Who Does Not Have a Right to Access My Credit Information?
Generally speaking, only the entities above may request your credit information—and most of these face restrictions, such as when you must be notified and how the information may be used. In addition, access to your credit report is strictly prohibited in court matters, such as divorce, immigration, civil investigation, and child custody proceedings (without a court order).
If you believe that a lender or business illegally gained access to your credit report, we can help. Fill out the Contact Us form or call the toll-free number on this page to speak with a consumer law attorney.