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Unauthorized Access of Your Credit Report

Your credit report contains your private and personal information, and you have the right to keep it that way. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep this information private, as your personal data passes through the hands of several different entities. There are thousands of CRAs (credit reporting agencies) across the country that maintain and have access to your reports. The three largest of these CRAs are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. The law states that one must have been given permission by you, a "legitimate business need" or "permissible purpose" for viewing your credit report. These definitions can be stretched rather far. In actuality, all it takes is an account with a bureau to gain access to credit reports; whether your permission has been given or not.

Permissible Purpose
Even though some will stretch the boundaries of permissible purpose, there are actually very few scenarios that fall within this realm. Court order responses, background check for employment or military, application of credit, loans, or insurance are legitimate business needs or permissible purposes. Someone who pulls your report must confirm that they do have permissible purpose for doing so. Once pulled, they must use the report for what they had declared. It is unscrupulous, not to mention illegal, for someone to declare permissible purpose and then use the report for some other means. There are many examples of pulling credit reports for improper means. For instance, an insurance company who is handling a personal injury claim may want to see if the plaintiff is in financial duress; if so, he/she is more likely to accept a reduced settlement offer. Another example is a marketing firm who pull reports to see how and where consumers spend their money.

Giving Someone Permission to Pull Your Credit Report
Whenever you apply for a loan or a credit card, you usually sign the application which states that you are giving the creditor or lender permission to pull your credit report. There are occasions when a company will forge signatures in order to obtain copies of credit reports. For instance, there are lenders who want to see who might qualify for a loan, so they pull the report before they send out material. This occurs more often than people realize. It is still fraudulent, and you could sue for a violation of privacy.

Your Rights Under the Law
Not only is impermissible access to your credit report an invasion of your privacy, these types of pulls can also lower your score. They are considered "hard hits" or inquiries. These stay on your report for 2 years and the more you have, the lower your score will be.

Look over your credit reports periodically. If you do not recognize an entry by a credit card company, lender, or insurance company, chances are that business has pulled your report without permissible purpose and without your permission. The first step is to contact the company, in writing, and ask why their name appears on your credit report. If they do not give a legitimate reason, you can seek litigation. Even if you do not suffer directly from an impermissible pull, you are entitled to a penalty per violation of your right to privacy. You can also pursue punitive damages as well as any out-of-pocket expenses you have incurred, including attorney fees.

The bureaus, and those who supply information to them, are large corporations out to make a buck off of you and your private information. As part of the free enterprise system they have that right. But you, as the consumer, also have the right to maintain your privacy and have it protected by those who collect and maintain your information. If they do not uphold the law, they should be held accountable by consumers who have the law on their side.