What to do if someone obtained your credit report without permission

Your credit report is a sensitive document that should have only authorized access


The Fair Credit Reporting Act lays out what the “permissionable purposes” are for someone to look up your credit report.


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Your credit report is a sensitive document. It serves as a barometer for the state of your finances and how well you handle them, and it includes input such as how much credit is available to you as well as information on your home mortgage and other debts.

Considering the sort of input the report contains, not everyone should be able to tap into this information, which they could use to their advantage when dealing with you.

That’s why the Fair Credit Reporting Act has laid out certain “permissible purposes” that detail the circumstances under which someone can gain access to your credit report.

See related: Which credit bureaus do card issuers use to check your credit?

Permissible purposes for credit report inquiry

The FCRA clearly states the situations under which a credit bureau should release your credit report to someone. These include:

  • If you give written permission
  • Under a court order
  • When a lender is considering you for a loan or reviewing or collecting on your account
  • For employment purposes (the agency should also provide a summary of a consumer’s rights with the report, and usually, the prospective employer will have notified you and gotten your written authorization to pull the report)
  • For insurance underwriting purposes or for a current insurer
  • To weigh on your eligibility for a government license that legally requires a determination of how financially responsible you are
  • To lenders or servicers looking to invest in a loan you’ve taken out or gauging whether you will pay off a loan (such as a mortgage) before it is due
  • When a business wants to review your account to decide if you continue to meet its terms or when there is a legitimate business reason relating to a transaction you’ve undertaken
  • When an “executive department” or agency looks into your credit report relating to the issuance of government-sponsored travel charge cards that are billed to individuals
  • When a state or local child support agency – or government official authorized by the agency – asks for it to make a decision regarding someone’s ability to make child support payments

See related: Free credit reports – How to get the actual free one

Pulling your credit report without permission 

In some cases, a “soft pull” of your credit does not require your express permission. For instance, a lender looking to extend credit to you might make an inquiry to preapprove you – or you might have received offers for preapproved credit cards even though you didn’t apply for them. These soft inquiries do not have an impact on your credit score.

Not all inquiries are so innocuous, however, and people might make attempts to get hold of your credit report by hook or by crook.

The Raleigh, North Carolina-based law office of Maginnis Howard explains in an online posting that if you are going through a divorce, for instance, it would be to your spouse’s advantage to learn more about your real financial situation. They could use a private investigator with contacts at businesses that don’t have adequate controls to ensure that a credit pull request is being legitimately initiated for a consumer.

Debt collectors pursuing a debt discharged in bankruptcy are also not entitled to pull up your credit report. And insurance companies cannot access your credit report to determine your financial position when examining a claim so that they can negotiate it to their benefit. In addition, car dealerships are notorious for skirting the law to look into your credit.

See related: Hard inquiries vs. soft inquiries: What they are, how they affect your credit

Monitor your credit report 

So, how do you know that someone has done an unauthorized check of your credit report?

When you look at your credit report, it will name those who initiated credit pulls – if you don’t recognize a name, look into it to find out if it was an authorized check. If it wasn’t, contact an attorney who will work with you to enforce your FCRA rights.

You could even be facing an identity theft issue if someone is looking to take out credit in your name. That’s why it is essential you stay on top of your credit reports and immediately report any errors.

See related: Credit report sample – How to read, understand a credit report

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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