Unauthorized credit checks can be an invasion of privacy

Credit reports contain valuable information about our personal lives and financial dealings. This information typically cannot be disclosed to anyone without your permission.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects consumers from illegal disclosures that can negatively impact your life and harm your credit.

Who can access your credit report?

Several types of organizations can typically obtain credit scores and reports for legitimate reasons with your permission. These include:

  • Banks
  • Creditors
  • Utility companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Employers
  • Landlords

These entities will likely run credit checks when you apply for a loan, credit card, mortgage, change insurers, apply for a job or rent an apartment. These so-called “hard” credit inquiries will lower your credit score.

Soft credit inquiries

In some cases, businesses can legally access your credit without your knowledge, although reputable companies will ask for permission. These “soft” credit inquiries do not have an impact on your credit score. An example is a credit card company initiating a soft credit inquiry to make you a targeted offer.

Protect yourself from potential damage

The best protection is to regularly check your credit at the three reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. If you discover an unauthorized inquiry:

  • It could be a sign of attempted identity theft
  • Contact the lender and the credit bureau
  • Consider freezing your credit
  • Submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

Make sure to check your credit at least once a year, but every six months or even quarterly is better as you can quickly catch and correct mistakes and spot unauthorized inquiries.

Take legal action for unlawful credit checks

Being vigilant is key to preserving good credit. Even an honest mistake can harm your score. But fraud and identity theft are on the rise, causing problems for Minnesotans. The FCRA protects your privacy from unlawful intrusions by businesses, credit bureaus and others.

When these incursions happen, it’s advisable to consult an experienced consumer protection attorney who can help you file complaints with federal and state agencies. In some cases, you may be able to sue businesses or individuals that fail to comply with FCRA rules.