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Legal Access to Credit Reports: Who Has It?

Posted on August 17, 2011

As credit-wise consumers, we have been told over and over that we should never disclose our personal financial information to other individuals without good reason. Identity theft and credit scams are rampant and consumers need to practice discretion when it comes to their top secret personal information in order to protect themselves and their finances.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act was established to protect the private information of consumers by limiting who is allowed to access credit reports and conduct credit inquiries. In order to understand how the protection works, consumers need to understand who is and who isn’t allowed to review their personal credit profile.

Here is an outline of the accessibility of your credit report to others:

Credit Card Companies

Since credit card companies offer lines of credit to consumers, they have a right to determine the risk you may present for defaulting on your legal obligations. The credit card company uses your credit profile and score to calculate a rate of interest on the card before issuing you credit approval. By signing the credit card application, you give credit card companies permission to inquire about your credit.


Bank lenders operate in a similar fashion to credit card companies. If they are going to lend you a sum of money, they want to make sure you manage your existing credit well enough that you will not have problems making loan repayments. Banks also get your permission for a credit check through their application process.

Debt Collectors

Debt collectors often use credit reports as a method of locating your correct address and contact information. Credit inquiries are performed to determine how much you have in assets and whether a lawsuit to collect balances is worth the effort. Debt collectors do not need your permission for them to access your crdit report.

Insurance Companies

Insurance companies will pull a consumer credit report in order to calculate a premium rate on insurance. Low scores will require a higher premium to be paid. There is a theory that reckless consumers equal reckless drivers. Statistics have shown that those with lower credit scores have a tendency to file more insurance claims.

Potential Employers

If you are looking to establish yourself in a financial job with an employer, especially the federal government, you will likely have a credit evaluation performed by the potential employer. You will have to sign a form granting permission to conduct a credit check. More companies are relying on credit checks to weed out good candidates from their prospective employee pool.


Landlords are increasingly performing credit checks on potential tenants as a way of reducing risk. Renters with low credit scores may be charged a higher initial deposit than those with high credit scores because there is a perception that financial troubles add increased risk for landlords. You will sign a form with your rental application that gives a landlord permission to pull your credit score and report.


Consumers have a right to a free copy of their credit report annually. The purpose of requesting your own credit report is to review the information being submitted about your financial accounts and to make sure it is correct. Inaccurate information can drag down a credit score so it is in your best interest review your credit report and score at least once a year and before each time you apply for new credit to see where you are credit-wise.

Consumers should also review their credit report regularly as a way to detect unauthorized use of credit. If your identity has been stolen and credit cards or other lines of credit have been opened in your name without your consent, you can detect the illegal activity through analyzing your credit report.

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