Who is Keeping Track of You and How to See Your Files
Think credit bureaus are the only agencies keeping an eye on you? Think again.
From Stacy Johnson, our Partner at MoneyTalksNews
You hopefully know the Big Three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – keep a file on you that tracks your loan payment history. And that you can get a free copy of your history from each agency once every year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
But credit isn’t the only thing outside companies are tracking. There are other databases out there, recording everything from prescriptions to insurance claims
Let’s delve deeper into those and other reports – and tell you where to get them.
1. Medical reports, part 1: Medical Information Bureau, IntelliScript, and MedPoint
If you’ve applied for an individual health, disability, long-term care or life insurance policy within the last seven years, it’s possible you have a file at the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), IntelliScript, and/or MedPoint.
Like a credit-reporting agency compiles credit histories, MIB compiles health histories. They get information from insurance companies, and your file might include any of hundreds of medical conditions, from asthma to depression.
If you haven’t applied for a personal policy, it’s unlikely you’ll have a report. But it’s not hard to find out – request your report by calling MIB at (866) 692-6901 or visiting this page of their website. After making a request, you’ll receive a copy of your file (or a letter stating you don’t have one) by snail mail, generally within a week or two.
IntelliScript and MedPoint compile information on your history of prescription drugs, including prescriptions, dosage, and refills. As with MIB reports, the information is used by insurance companies when you apply for insurance, but can also be used to hike premiums on an existing policy, or even drop coverage.
As with your credit or MIB file, you can get one free copy per year. Request your MedPoint file by calling (888) 206-0335. Request an IntelliScript file by calling (877) 211-4816. They also have additional contact information at this Web page.
Medical reports, part 2: your personal file
Your doctor and other medical professionals you deal with also maintain medical records about you, containing such information as:
- Visits to doctors
- Test results
- Current and past prescriptions
- Billing history
- Family relationships
- Sexual history
- Substance abuse history
- Psychotherapy notes
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), only certain people can access your medical records. That includes the professionals who are providing care, of course, but also includes your insurance company.
You can request a copy of your medical history from your doctor. They can only refuse access to parts of your history that might prove harmful, such as things related to your mental condition.
While getting a peek at your medical history should prove easy, it may not be free, since someone has to copy it. States limit amounts that can be charged, however: Here’s a list of max charges by state. For more about getting copies of your medical history, check out this page of the Health and Human Service website.
2. Tenant history
Your rental history generally appears on your credit report only if you’ve been sued by a landlord, or a landlord turned you in to a collection agency for nonpayment. But many landlords, especially large ones, may report information about you to third-party companies that maintain residential or tenant databases. Your tenant history could include:
- Payment history
- Notes from previous landlords
- Criminal record
- Past evictions
- An assessment of your rental risk level
Tenant history reports are compiled by dozens of companies, so not all reports contain the same information. For example, check out the sample reports on Rental History Reports and Landlord Connection Inc., and you’ll see some differences.
The lack of reporting standards also makes it more difficult to get your file. Best bet: request the name of the reporting company a landlord uses when you apply for a rental, or contact some of the bigger names in tenant screening. For example:
- LexisNexis Screen Solutions Residential History Report
- Experian RentBureau Rental History Report
- Core Logic SafeRent
3. Check-writing history
With the exception of collection accounts for an overdraft fee you did not pay, your banking history does not appear on your credit report. Instead, it appears on a separate report. This report contains:
- Bounced checks
- Unpaid overdrafts on checking accounts
- Closed accounts
- Banking fraud
ChexSystems maintains the biggest banking history database and provides reports to most banks. According to CNNMoney, ChexSystems tracks info on more than 300 million customers and supplies reports to more than 80 percent of the nation’s banks. They also have their own scoring system, which ranks banking customers between 100 and 899. If you have a low score, you can be denied a bank account.
You can request a free copy of your ChexSystems file once a year online. But ChexSystems isn’t the only company monitoring your banking habits. The Shared Check Authorization Network maintains a database of returned checks and fraud. If your check is declined due to their service, you can request a report by calling 800-262-7771.
TeleCheck also verifies checks based on their own database. You can mail in a request for your file. The address and a list of verification documents you’ll need are available on the TeleCheck website.
4. Insurance claims
If you’ve ever filed a claim against your homeowners or automobile insurance, a third-party company has recorded information about that claim – including the type of loss and the amount paid by the insurance company. That information is then used to create your insurance claims report, which partly determines what premiums you’ll pay.
Two companies maintain insurance claim reports:
- LexisNexis issues a report called the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE). These reports go back seven years. You’re entitled to one free CLUE report each year, which you can order online through the LexisNexis site.
- ISO maintains the second insurance claim reporting database. Their report, the A-PLUS, can be ordered by calling 800-627-3487. You are entitled to one free copy of your A-Plus report a year.
5. Employment data
Employment data reports include public records like tax liens and lawsuits as well as information on your past jobs. These reports can be used to determine whether you get a new job or promotion. Unfortunately, they’re also the most complicated of all the reports we’ve listed. Unlike other types of reports that are managed by two or three companies, there are hundreds of companies that offer employment screening services. So hunting down every report would be almost impossible – but you still have options.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, employers are legally required to ask your permission before they run a background check. You could simply refuse to sign the release form, but doing so would obviously result in most employers hesitating to hire you. However, if an employer denies you a job or promotion because of a background check, they have to give you the name and address of the company that supplied the employment data report. The Federal Trade Commission says you have 60 days after a denial to request a free copy of your report.
One often-used employment report is the LexisNexis Screening Solutions Employment History Report. It contains employment-related and other background information. You can get a free copy by calling them at (866) 312-8075, or making an online request here.
The bottom line
The time to pay the most attention to the companies tracking you is when the information they collect could imminently affect your future. For example, while it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your credit history, it’s critical before you apply for a loan. Likewise, if you’re going to apply for individual health, disability, or life insurance, you’d want to check medical reports in advance of applying.
Continually keeping track of everything being collected about you is a time-consuming hobby. But when one of these reports could affect the outcome of a job search or other important part of your life, it’s a good idea to see what’s being said about you as far in advance as possible.
Published Sep 7, 2012.