Who Can Look at Your Credit Report

We often hear that the higher your credit score is the more
credit you can obtain, and the lower your interest rate will be
while the lower your credit score is the higher your interest rate
will be. But who has access to your report and who protects your
privacy?

Many Americans consider their credit information to be private
information, and it should be. The amount of money you owe or how
much you spend doesn’t need to be available to the general public
or even to companies with whom you no longer have a relationship.
As a consumer you are entitled to protection of that information
under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Because of the FCRA,
not everyone who wants to view your credit report can, and to a
great extent, your permission is required.

If you apply for credit or discuss credit terms with a potential
credit grantor, or an insurance company then that company does have
the right to check your credit report. In addition, once you have
established a credit relationship with a company, they are entitled
to routinely check your report to assure that you maintain
financial health while your account is open. When you check your
own credit report you will see a couple of different views;

  • Part of the information provided when you check your report is
    the name of any person or company that gained access to your report
    and the dates when they did it.
  • An actual application for credit will show up as a “Regular
    Inquiry” and the report will notify you that such inquiries are
    also reviewed by other creditors and may remain on your report for
    up to two (2) years.
  • Regular inquiries can actually lower your score. The more
    applications for credit you complete in a short period of time, the
    more it can harm your score.
  • The other kind of inquiry is called an “Account Review.” These
    inquiries are typically performed by your current creditors, and
    the inquiries are neither seen by anyone else nor do they affect
    your score.

Still, an inquiry into your report is an invasion of privacy,
and no person or company that does not have the required permission
should be looking at your report. If an unpermitted inquiry was
made on your report, you have rights under the FCRA to recover any
damage caused by the invasion of your privacy or if the lowering of
your credit score causes any loss of credit. In addition, the FCRA
provides that if a consumer is successful in bringing a claim under
this law, not only could you be entitled to compensation for these
damages, but your attorneys’ fees and costs are to be paid by the
offending party.