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Who Is Allowed to Check Your Credit Reports?


Who Is Allowed to Check Your Credit Reports?

Accessing your credit information is easier now than it has been at any other point in history. Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you even have the right to view a free copy of all 3 of your credit reports every 12 months. To claim your free reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian simply visit Depending upon your state of residence you may have access to additional free copies of your 3 credit reports each year as well.

Even after you have exhausted your free annual credit reports, there is no shortage of websites online which will grant you access to your credit reports and possibly your scores either for free or for a fee. This easy access to your credit information is certainly a good thing for consumers. However, the ease of access might also have you concerned about who else can put their hands on a copy of your credit reports.

The good news is that the credit reporting agencies (CRAs) are not simply allowed to release your credit information to anyone who asks for it. Instead, the FCRA lays out some very specific rules regarding to whom the CRAs may disclose your credit information. In order to access your credit report a company must have what is legally referred to as Permissible Purpose. Read below for a list of some of the most common reasons your credit reports may legally be accessed.

Court Order

Per the FCRA if a judge orders the CRAs to disclose your credit reports, legally they are bound to hand them over.  

Request from You, the Consumer

You also have the right to access you own credit reports as often as you like. As already mentioned, you even have the right to a free copy of your 3 reports annually. Beyond that you can still request unlimited additional copies of your credit reports, though you might be charged for the privilege of doing so.

Credit Transactions

You probably already know that when you apply for a loan or credit card the bank or card issuer is going to check your credit as part of the application process. In general this is 100% legal under the FCRA.

Employment Screening

Current and prospective employers also have permissible purpose to pull your credit reports. However, your written permission is required first. There is also a common myth that employers may access your credit scores as well, but the truth is that employers may have access to your credit reports only.

Insurance Underwriting

Insurance companies often rely upon your credit information in order to determine the risk of doing business with you and, if they choose to take you on as a customer, how much to charge. According to the FCRA this is typically permitted.

Account Review

Under the FCRA your existing creditors are permitted to obtain your credit reports as well. Current creditors may pull your reports and scores to determine whether your risk level has changed and if they wish to continue doing business with you.

Child Support

Per the FCRA your credit reports can legally be used to determine how much you can afford to pay in child support.

Collection Purposes

Like it or not, collection agencies are often able to pull your credit reports according to the FCRA and, unfortunately for the consumer, they do not need your permission to do so. As long as the collection agency follows the rules, these reports may be used for skip tracing purposes (aka finding you) and for determining your capacity to pay your debts.

Prescreened Credit Card Offers

Have you ever received a "preapproved" offer in the mail? If so, the CRAs likely sold your information as part of a large mailing list to a credit card issuer. Your full credit report was not given to the card issuer, but due to a specific set of search criteria the card issuer probably has a very good idea of the information contained in your report. Although you did not specifically authorize the access or even apply for a loan, this disclosure of your credit information is still allowed under the FCRA. If you want to stop the CRAs from selling your credit information for prospecting purposes then you will have to visit to officially make the request.

Unauthorized Credit Report Access

You should already be keeping an eye on your credit reports often to make sure that the information contained there remains accurate. However, you may not have realized that you should be keeping an eye on your credit report inquiries (records which pertain to when your reports were accessed) as well.

Many credit report inquiries (aka pulls) have the potential to lower your credit scores. Plus, if you discover unauthorized or suspicious inquiries it could even be a sign of identity theft. The FCRA gives you the right to dispute any such inquiries - either on your own or with the help of a reputable credit repair professional.

CLICK HERE or call 704-499-9696 to schedule a no-obligation credit analysis with a HOPE4USA credit expert today. 



Michelle Black is an author and leading credit expert with a decade and a half of experience, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, and a regularly featured speaker at seminars across the country. She is an expert on improving credit scores, budgeting, and identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE4USA Facebook page by clicking here.


How Many Points Will An Inquiry Lower My Credit Scores?


How Many Points Will An Inquiry Lower My Credit Scores?

The fact that inquiries have the potential to lower consumer credit scores is not breaking news. Credit savvy consumers know that letting too many lenders pull their credit reports in a short period of time is a bad idea (with the exception of rate shopping for a mortgage, auto loan, or student loan within a 45 day period). However, the idea that inquiries lower your credit scores a particular number of points is a complete myth.

There is nothing on a consumer's credit report that raises or lowers your scores a fixed number of points. For example, an inquiry does not always lower your score 4 points (or 3, 5, or 6 points for that matter). An on-time payment does not raise your credit score 5 points. A late payment does not lower your scores 30 points. That is simply not the way that credit scores work.

How Inquiries Actually Impact Your Credit Scores

Remember, not all inquiries will have a negative impact upon your credit scores. (CLICK HERE to read The Difference Between Hard and Soft Inquiries for more information.) However, as mentioned above, those hard inquiries which do have the potential to negatively impact your credit scores are not going to lower those scores a specific number of points per inquiry that occurs.

Instead, imagine a set of 5 buckets lined up side by side. Each bucket bears a sign which represents the number of inquiries which appear on a consumer's credit report over a period of the past 12 months.

  •  Bucket #1 = 0 Inquiries
  • Bucket #2 = 1-2 Inquiries
  • Bucket #3 = 3-4 Inquiries
  • Bucket #4 = 5-6 Inquiries
  • Bucket #5 = More than 6 Inquiries
    *NOTE: These are hypothetical categories for demonstration purposes only.

Since inquiries are the primary factor which accounts for 10% of your FICO credit scores and the range of FICO scores is 300 - 850 (550 total available points) then there could be the potential for a consumer to earn up to 55 points for her credit scores in the inquiry category. Here's a hypothetical look at how credit score points might be awarded within the inquiry category of a consumer's credit report.

  • Bucket #1 = 0 Inquiries = 55 points
  •  Bucket #2 = 1-2 Inquiries = 45 points
  • Bucket #3 = 3-4 Inquiries = 35 points
  • Bucket #4 = 5-6 Inquiries = 20 points
  • Bucket #5 = More than 6 Inquiries = 10 points
    *NOTE: These are hypothetical categories and points for demonstration purposes only.

While the points listed above are not an exact representation of how many points a consumer's credit score would receive based upon her number of inquiries, the concept is an accurate representation of how credit scores are calculated within a category. In the example above if Jane Doe had a credit report with 3 inquiries then she would receive 35 points (of the 55 available points within the category) to be added to her overall credit score. However, if Jane Doe had no additional credit inquiries and the 3 inquiries became over 12 months old then she would move to the "0 inquiry" bucket and would receive 55 points instead of the 35 points she had received previously. In the case of this example Jane's credit score would increase by 15 points once the 3 previous inquiries aged out of credit score calculation range and she moved to the "0 inquiry" bucket.

When it comes to inquiries just remember that the fewer hard inquiries the better it is for your credit scores. (Soft inquiries which typically occur when you check your own credit are fine. They never lower your scores.) Additionally, as you can see from the "buckets" example above, no single inquiry is worth a particular number of points. Now that you understand that individual credit inquiries are not worth a particular number of points, congratulations! You now understand more about your credit scores than probably 99% of the population.


Michelle Black is an author and a credit expert with over a decade of experience, the credit blogger at, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, a contributor to the Wealth Section of Fort Mill Magazine, and  a regularly featured speaker at seminars up and down the East Coast. She is an expert on improving credit scores, credit reporting, correcting credit errors, budgeting, and recovering from identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE Facebook page by clicking here.