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8 People Who Can Access Your Credit Report

Somewhere, in the vast reaches of the digital world, your credit report sits. Your credit file includes information about your address (and previous addresses), as well as a list of all your credit accounts and your payment histories with those accounts. Actual amounts of debt you have may be revealed. In some cases, employer information is included, although employment dates and salaries may not appear.

Not all of the information contained in your credit report [3] is used to calculate your credit score, but the information in your credit report can still be of use to the people who are looking into your history. So, who can access your credit report, and why? You might be surprised at how many people are allowed to look at your credit file.

Here are 8 of those people who are allowed to take a peek at your credit history:

  1. YOU: First of all, it’s vital that you understand that you are entitled to look at your credit report whenever you want — and it has to be reasonably priced (whatever that means). You are entitled to a free report from each of the bureaus every year [4], and the rest of the time, you can check it — without penalty — as often as you are willing to pay for it.
  2. Potential Creditors: This isn’t a surprise to most people. When you apply for credit, potential lenders want to see your credit history. And, if you are applying for a loan, they don’t even need to get your signature. If you are borrowing, the potential lender can pull your credit.
  3. Debt Collectors: It would be nice if debt collectors couldn’t pull your credit file to find information about you. However, while you might be able to fight debt collectors [5]┬áin some areas, and while you have rights [6], don’t assume that debt collectors can’t use your credit report against you. Debt collection agencies can use the information in your credit file, such as your current address, to more effectively collect. They can also use the information to infer how much you can afford to pay.
  4. Insurance Companies: You may not be applying for credit, but the insurance company can look at your credit report anyway. Increasingly, a credit report is becoming a way for others to judge your level of fiscal responsibility — and even your general responsibility. The information in your credit file can influence whether you are approved for a policy, and what premiums you pay.
  5. Employers: A potential employer might not be able to look at your credit score, but the company can look at your credit report. However, you do have to express your permission with a signature in order for a prospective employer to access your credit report.
  6. Court Officials: If a court needs the information, the court can order it. This means that a court might use your report to figure out how much child support you can afford. Your credit file might also be used as evidence in a criminal or civil trial, if it is considered helpful. An expert witness can even look at your report and speak to what it means.
  7. Telecommunications Companies: I recently bought a new phone and switched cell phone providers. As part of the process, a credit check was run. My Internet and satellite TV providers also checked my credit report. If you give your permission, these companies can look at your report and use the information to decide whether to allow you an account, or whether you need to jump through extra hoops.
  8. Marketers: It’s perfectly ok for marketers dealing with certain “relevant” products and services to look at your credit report information as part of deciding whether or not to send you an offer. The “prescreened” credit card offers you get are often the result of marketers looking at some of the information on your credit profile and deciding that you qualify for an offer.

(Photo: Joe Hall [7])