Who Can Request to See Your Credit Report?
Your credit report contains your credit history — your loans and credit cards, how much you’ve borrowed and whether you’ve made payments on time. Lenders review your background when you apply for loans. Part of that process includes a hard credit check when they request your credit report and credit score from reporting bureaus.
While the general public can’t see your credit report, some groups have legal access to that personal information. Those groups include lenders, creditors, landlords, employers, insurance companies, government agencies and utility providers.
Who can see your credit report
Credit reporting companies can send out your credit report for different reasons. Credit bureaus will allow inquiries as long as someone will use the report for credit transactions, offering credit or insurance, employment purposes, determining government benefit eligibility or legitimate business needs.
If you have continuing financial relationships with creditors, landlords or employers, chances are they’ll be able to request your credit report. If you apply for new credit, lenders will request your credit report from a major credit bureau. Generally, those who check your credit report check to see if you’ve been able to repay your debts, especially if they’ll expect regular payments from you in the future.
You’re also entitled to a copy of your own credit report and can request a free one each year. Everyone has the legal right to see their own credit report, which helps you check to see if there’s inaccurate information that could hurt you. It also lets you know where you stand as you consider whether to take out more credit accounts.
Whenever you apply for a loan, lenders will check a copy of your credit report and reference your credit score when deciding whether to approve you. That information shows your creditworthiness, a very important part of your application. Lenders that check credit reports include mortgage lenders, student loan servicers, credit card companies, auto lenders and companies that issue personal loans.
If you sign a loan agreement, your creditors can access your credit report during your relationship. They may not need to see that information if you make payments on time. But for products like variable rate credit cards, creditors may check your credit score and adjust your interest rate accordingly. If you fall behind on payments and your debt goes to collections, debt collection agencies and judgment creditors will likely request your credit reports.
When you apply for rental housing, landlords want to ensure you’ll be able to pay your rent. Your credit report will include any late or missed payments you may have had, debts that have gone into collections or bankruptcies — or if you have a clean credit history, potential landlords will see that as well.
Some potential employers review credit reports during the job application process, especially for jobs related to financial management. In some industries, those credit checks are required by law but require written permission from you. Employers are required to follow certain guidelines in reviewing credit reports. Some states prohibit the practice entirely.
If you’re shopping for home or car insurance, insurance companies typically check credit reports to determine your creditworthiness. Credit scores, as well as other information related to your payment history, can affect whether you’re approved for insurance and what premiums you’ll pay.
If you apply for public assistance or are required to pay child support, various government agencies can check your credit report. They also use credit reports to corroborate your personal information. Law enforcement groups can also get credit report information if they secure a court order.
If you need utility services, water, electric and gas companies will check your credit history to verify that you’re able to pay for your services. They may require a deposit if you have a poor credit history. In some situations, you could even be denied those services.
Who can’t see your credit report
Not just anyone can request a copy of your credit report. Unless there’s a permissible purpose, most people cannot see your credit history. The general public — including family, friends and other people — can’t just request a copy of your report from a credit bureau.
People who try to access your credit report without permission or a legal reason can be subject to criminal and civil penalties. If you suspect that someone has been illegally requesting your credit report, you can submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Laws protecting your credit privacy
The legal guidelines for credit reporting are set by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which was passed in 1970 and has evolved to meet modern needs. The FCRA sets requirements for consumer reports like credit scores, how credit reporting agencies obtain and share information, identity theft protections and consumer access to credit information.
The FCRA protects you by limiting who can access your credit information — and granting you the legal right to your own data. It applies to Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, as well as other groups that compile consumer reports.
How to access your credit report and credit score
You can receive a free copy of your credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com, which gathers information from the three credit bureaus. During the COVID-19 pandemic, those credit bureaus started offering free weekly reports.
There are several ways to see your credit score — for example, banks and credit companies might have credit reporting tools that track your score and alert you if there’s a sudden drop or another significant change. LendingTree has a free credit score tool that lets you monitor your score and helps you find ways to improve your credit.