There are three national consumer reporting companies — Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. As a consumer, you must ensure the data about you maintained by consumer reporting companies is accurate and complete.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the three national credit reporting companies are offering free weekly online credit reports through April 2022, and individuals can request free copies of those reports by going to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.
Other companies collect your information and prepare consumer reports for other agencies. As a consumer, you have the right to see those reports as well.
View the link https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/credit-reports-and-scores/consumer-reporting-companies/companies-list/ to see a list of consumer reporting companies. These companies use reports to inform decisions about providing you with credit, employment, residential rental housing, insurance, and other decision-making situations.
Who can see your consumer reports?
Consumer reporting companies collect information and provide reports to other companies about you, but they must follow legal restrictions. Generally, they can provide consumer reports and risk scores to businesses such as:
- Debt buyers and collectors
- Lenders (including those that offer credit cards, home, payday, personal, title, auto including auto leasing, student loans, and security deposit financing and lease guarantees on home rentals)
- Insurance companies
- Employers, volunteer organizations, and government agencies to determine eligibility for government assistance (employment screening)
- Landlords and residential real estate management companies (tenant screening)
- Banks, credit unions, payment process (check screening), and retail stores that accept personal checks
- Companies that market and sell products and services specifically to lower-income consumers and subprime credit applicants
- Communications and utility companies
- Retail stores for product return fraud and abuse screening; as well as retail store that offer financing, such as appliance and rent-to-own businesses
- Gaming casinos that extend credit to consumers and/or accept personal checks
Check your reports before making financial decisions
If you are applying for a job, an insurance policy, or a lease, you should fact-check your background screening reports to ensure there are no errors.
You have the right to dispute the information in your reports
If you find information in your consumer reports that you believe is inaccurate or incomplete, you have the legal right to dispute the report’s content with the consumer reporting company and the company that shared the information with the consumer reporting company, such as your lender. Under the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act), companies must conduct, free of charge, a reasonable investigation of your dispute.
To learn more about financial wellness programs at University of Maryland Extension, go to https://extension.umd.edu/programs/family-consumer-sciences/financial-wellness.