Consumers must give permission for someone to access credit reports.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) states acceptable reasons for a company to view your credit report. Any organization or individual who gets a copy of your report under false pretenses can be sued and subject to criminal prosecution. Simply having a good, compelling reason to obtain someone's credit report is not enough, unless it's stated in the FCRA.

The following list of organizations may have legitimate reason to access your credit report:

  • Insurance companies (at underwriting, not claims)
  • Landlords seeking a credit check for renters
  • Credit card companies
  • Employers (only with full disclosure and your written consent)
  • Government licensing organizations (if required to check financial status)
  • State or local child support enforcement agencies
  • Government agencies (usually can only look at your name, address, former addresses, and current and past employers)
  • Companies or organizations with which you've initiated business

Any time your credit report is viewed by one of the above, a “hard inquiry” gets recorded on your credit report. Hard inquiries may lower your credit score.

Cary Flitter comments: Impermissible Access to Credit Reports

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