Guide to Consumer Credit Reports: There are More than Three
By now, most of us are familiar with the big three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. We can receive a free copy of these credit reports, every 12 months through Annual Credit Report.com. But were you aware that there are many other companies who collect and distribute information about our financial habits and other behaviors? These reports are used for a variety of situations including:
- Employment screening - Employment screening companies provide verification information such as credit history, employment, salary, education and professional license verification to employers and others. They may also provide criminal arrest and conviction information as well as fingerprint information from state and federal criminal record databases; driving record information; drug and alcohol testing and health screening information; and non-profit and volunteer activity verification. Many employment screening companies won’t have information on you unless you authorized an employer or other end-user to obtain a report. If possible, when you give your authorization, ask for the name(s) of the employment screening company being used. Contact those reporting companies to fact-check your reports. If the employer is checking your credit history in separate reports, from one or all three of the nationwide providers of consumer reports listed above, also request and review those reports.
- Tenant screening -If you are applying as a tenant for a residential property, you may want to ask the management company whether it will be pulling your consumer report(s). If the answer is yes, ask for the consumer reporting company name(s). Contact those companies to fact-check those reports and dispute them as needed. A tenant screening report containing negative information, such as prior evictions, could result in a rejected lease application, or it may get approved but with tough conditions inserted into the lease agreement such as requiring you to pay twelve months of rent in advance of your move-in date. If you can, consider holding off on submitting your application until you can fact-check your reports and dispute suspected inaccuracies as needed. If the landlord is checking your credit history from one or all three of the nationwide providers of consumer reports listed above, request and review those reports as well.
- Check and bank screening - If you have been a victim of bank and/or check writing fraud or have had prior difficulties opening or closing a bank account (such as being denied an account), review your check and bank screening report(s) and dispute them if inaccurate. This applies especially if you are about to open a new bank and/or checking account.
- Personal property insurance - These reporters collect and report information on insurance coverage, losses associated with individuals and their personal property, as well as home and automobile insurance coverage and losses.
- Medical - used when applying for private life, health, critical illness, long-term care or disability income insurance.
- Low-income and subprime lending – debt collectors, payday loans, check cashing services, rent-to-own services, subprime auto and home lending.
- Utilities - Collect information on new telecom and utility connect requests, account and payment histories, defaults, and fraudulent accounts associated with telecommunications, pay TV, and utility (electric, gas, water) services to help companies in the telecommunications and utility industries identify high risk consumers.
- Retail - Monitors and reports to merchants history of retail product return and exchange fraud and abuse.
- Gaming - Provides consumer data to assist casinos and other gaming establishments such as racetracks to manage the risk associated with check cashing settlement services to consumers.
As you can see, these reports may have an impact in many areas of our lives. Negative information may cause us to be turned down for an apartment, job, credit, or some insurance policies. It may also increase the amount of a deposit required to turn on utilities such as electricity or gas.
The good news is that you have a right to see the information in these reports and it is usually free. By viewing the reports, you can find errors and get them corrected. To learn more about disputing errors, see our article Correcting Your Credit Report. The website also has a list of the different credit reporting agency categories with links to their contact information.