Do you know your credit score? I bet you probably do.
I also bet you probably know how to get your credit report for free each year from each of the three major credit bureaus.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is the name most people are familiar with. But did you know that the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (2003) was the bill that gave you that access? It also gave you access to the reports of other specialty consumer reporting agencies, not just the credit-related ones.
For example, have you heard of the company ChexSystems? You may have a ChexSystems score, which is used by banks to decide whether to let you open an account.
How about your gaming record? VIP Preferred keeps track of your history to help casinos decide whether to give you check-cashing settlement services.
And utilities? National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange keeps track of “new telecom and utility connect requests, account and payment histories including delinquencies and charge-offs, associated with telecommunications, pay TV, and utility (electric, gas, water) services to help companies in these industries manage customer relations.”
There's even one that may have your prescription purchase history. These reports are everywhere.
With all these specialty consumer reporting agencies, it is now possible for you to give your finances a background check. You can find out what other companies and people can learn about you and your money… and more importantly, fix any errors. Other people are doing this to learn more about you and make certain decisions, you need to check up on this to make sure what they see is accurate.
Master List of Consumer Reporting Agencies
We will start by sharing the list maintained by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
They maintain a list of companies and categorizes them by area of interest, which include:
- Nationwide consumer reporting companies
- Employment screening
- Tenant screening
- Check and bank screening
- Personal property insurance
- Low-income and subprime
- Supplementary reports
You can read the report and simply go to each database and request your report.
We offer a little more clarity below for the different categories.
Nationwide consumer reporting companies
This refers to the credit reporting agencies you're most familiar with.
I won't get into this too much because it's fairly common knowledge but you can get a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, Transunion) by going to AnnualCreditReport.com.
As a result of the Equifax data breach, you can request up to six copies of your Equifax report every 12 months. Just go to their website and initiate your request. It's a pretty quick process and you'll get your credit report in minutes. Check it every year and fix anything that looks weird. It can take time to get the errors fixed so you want to start that process as quickly as possible.
Whereas credit bureaus have a very specific purpose (assessing your risk of defaulting on a line of credit or loan), employment screening services offer a wider scope of information. This includes credit history but also your employment history, salary, education and professional license verification, and even residential history. What gets most interesting is that sometimes these databases compile data from elsewhere like criminal record databases, motor vehicle information, drug testing, and medical screening. It's very broad and this is why it's so critical to ensure this data is correct.
If you are looking for work or considering moving, you should request your reports to ensure there isn't anything wrong or inaccurate. You don't want a background check to show you did something you didn't.
Here are the more common ones, each offers a free report every twelve months if they have one on you:
- ADP Screening & Selection Services
- First Advantage Corporation and Verification
- Hire Right
Landlords almost always run tenant screening to ensure they don't get stuck with a bad tenant. These reporting agencies collect everything from eviction information to check-writing history and even criminal record history.
When you are looking at a rental, ask the landlord or management company which tenant screening company they use. Then request a copy of your report from that company and fix anything inaccurate or incorrect.
Here are the ones listed in the CFPB report:
- Consumer Assistance Center
- Experian RentBureau
- First Advantage Corporation Resident Solutions
- Real Page, Inc. (LeasingDesk)
- Screening Reports, Inc.
- SmartMove by TransUnion
Check and banking screening
If you're looking to open a checking account or simply trying to cash a check, banks will use a system like ChexSystems to assess your risk. If you've always had a checking account, it may seem strange that banks would ever need to do this but there are many cases where a banking relationship goes bad and the accountholder disappears with a negative balance (especially after fees!).
Generally speaking, checking on this isn't necessary unless you experience a problem opening a bank account. Unlike tenant screening or employment screening, where being rejected is a significant burden, being rejected for a bank account is (generally) only a minor nuisance until you fix the unknown error. I would only spend the time on this if you are curious about what these reports look like or if you were rejected for an account.
Personal property insurance
Much like banking screening, property insurance reports are used when you try to get insurance of any kind – home, auto, personal property, umbrella, etc. I would check these only if you anticipate needing to get insurance soon. Personally, until writing this post, I never request this information but I'd also never had a major claim. I was also fortunate in that the reports were likely accurate because I wasn't denied or told I was a higher risk.
That said, requesting a report is fairly trivial and you may wish to be on the safe side.
- A-PLUS Property (by Verisk) – home, auto, and personal property
- LexisNexis C.L.U.E.(Auto & Property Reports – claims history exchange with auto and personal property claims
- Drivers History (TransUnion) – driving information from open data sources
The medical specialty reports are important because this is what insurers use when determining your rates and whether to approve your application for any kind of life insurance, disability insurance, or long term care insurance. It contains your medical history as well as employment history, in the event you were in a more hazardous working environment.
The two companies to know are MIB, Inc. and Milliman IntelliScript. MIB collects information about medical conditions and work conditions, which is used to assess your risk, but you won't have one unless you applied for individual insurance in the last seven years from a company in their network. Milliman IntelliScript collects information on your prescription drug purchases but they only collect information if you signed a release allowing it (you would've done this through your insurance).
Low-income and subprime
It's like banking and checking reporting services but for the low-income and subprime demographic, which includes payday loans, cash checking services, rent-to-own transactions, and similar transactions. If you have problems with getting access to those services, you will want to check these reports:
Again, similar to banking, I would only request this report if you have problems getting new phone, internet, or utility connections. You want to request it from the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange.
I would never have expected this one on the list but there's a company that monitors and reports retail product return/exchange fraud and abuse. Much like the others, it's not worth checking unless a retailer denies your return (or warns they won't let you return something) because unless that happens, they probably don't have any dirt on you. Go to The Retail Equation and you can get your report.
This section is the most interesting because many of the companies collect this information from public sources and national consumer reporting companies like credit bureaus. If I were to guess, the occurrences of error are probably relatively higher on these reports than in the others!
So if you've ever wanted to know what other companies or people might know about you… now you have a list.
Start requesting! 🙂