How to Background Check Your Specialty Consumer Reports

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.

Table of Contents
  1. Master List of Consumer Reporting Agencies
  2. Nationwide consumer reporting companies
  3. Employment screening
  4. Tenant screening
  5. Personal property insurance
  6. Medical
  7. Low-income and subprime
  8. Utilities
  9. Retail
  10. Supplementary reports

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
  • Medical
  • Low-income and subprime
  • Supplementary reports
  • Utilities
  • Retail
  • Gaming

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.

Employment screening

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:

Tenant screening

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:

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.

Medical

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:

Utilities

Again, similar to banking, I would only request this report if you have problems getting a new phone, internet, or utility connections. You want to request it from the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange.

Retail

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.

Supplementary reports

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! 🙂

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Jim Wang

About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a thirty-something father of three who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and a farm in Illinois via AcreTrader.

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  1. Marisette Edwards says

    Wow. It looks to me like there’s an opportunity here. Wouldn’t it be nice to provide one-stop shopping for people who don’t have time to go to all those sites? Provide a fully comprehensive report to them? I dread the thought of seeking out everything known about me, but if it was available in one big report it wouldn’t feel as intimidating.

    • Jim Wang says

      It would be but my understanding is that the law only permits the individual from requesting the report, I doubt a company could do so on your behalf. I agree 100% that it would be easier to request it from one place and get a big report. Most of the time, they don’t even have anything in their records on you but you don’t know that unless you make a request.

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