Who Can Access Your Credit Report?


Only certain individuals and organizations are allowed by law to access your credit report for specific reasons. The rules that govern who can access your credit reports are set forth in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

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However, these rules aren’t always followed. There is a possibility that unauthorized creditors have accessed your personal information.

In this article, we’ll explain where you can see inquiries listed on your credit reports. We’ll also cover who can access your credit report and how it can be used.

Where can you see who pulled your credit report?

If you’re wondering who’s been accessing your credit history, grab your free annual credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. Towards the end of your free credit report, you’ll see a section called ‘Inquiries’. It lists all the credit checks that have been performed over the past two years.

Who can check your credit report?

Most of these should be familiar to you, but there might be some that stand out as red flags. Before you start disputing, read on to learn who exactly is entitled to authorize your credit report. Here are some examples of cases in which inquiries are permitted by law.

Banks and Lending Institutions

Whenever you apply for a loan, lenders will check your credit report to determine your risk level. A good credit score will help you qualify, as well as give you the best interest rates.

If you’re shopping around for loans, multiple inquiries can appear on your credit report. The credit scoring system provides a “buffer” to prevent this from negatively impacting your credit score. However, it doesn’t always happen.

Credit Card Companies

Applications for credit cards will involve having your credit report pulled by credit card issuers. This includes credit cards associated with particular stores and special offers. Credit card companies are interested in your credit history and need to know if you’re likely to pay debts responsibly.

Again, interest rates will be based on risk levels. Credit card issuers and lenders typically ask for your permission before pulling your credit report. However, they are not always legally required to.

Insurance Companies

According to the FCRA, an insurance company may look at your credit history when you apply for insurance and they do not need permission from you.

Any time you get a new policy or renew coverage, they can view your credit report. Just like a loan, insurance policies are underwritten so it’s important for them to get an idea of your creditworthiness.

Prospective Employers

Potential employers can access credit reports whenever you apply for a job, but they must have written permission. They’ll check your credit information for evidence of irresponsibility. They may even use it to profile you in terms of how responsibly they think you will perform your job.

Unfortunately, if you refuse, they might not hire you. This practice used to be restricted to the financial sector, but is now common in other sectors as well.

Debt Collectors

Debt collection agencies will access your credit reports to find addresses and try to check up on you. They might try to evaluate your assets to see if they can sue you. The legality of this is different in different states and should always be questioned. Don’t assume that a collection agency automatically has this right.

Potential Landlords

Sometimes your credit score can affect your ability to rent a condo, house, or apartment. Landlords have a right to view your credit report as a measure of your ability to pay your rent.

You don’t necessarily have to be asked for permission, but often they will let you know. They’ll be looking at your financial responsibility, as well as your public records of evictions.

Phone and Utility Companies

Any utility company or service that has continual billing can make a credit inquiry on your credit report. Some of these will be hard inquiries, some not, and they might be worth trying to get removed.

This can include inquiries from internet, TV, and cell phone providers; property management companies; and gas, water, and electric utilities. Again, many of these might be just soft inquiries, but they’re worth investigating.

Government Agencies

If a government agency has a legitimate reason to access your credit report, they may do so. It could be to determine if you have unclaimed income or assets when you apply for public assistance. It could be to determine how much you can afford to pay for child support. Or it could just be for your contact information. Your credit report can also be accessed if an entity is given a court order to do so.

Pulling Your Own Credit Report

It’s important to pull your credit report from time to time to know where you stand. Identity theft has become more prevalent than ever. So, you need to know if someone has your Social Security number and is opening credit accounts in your name.

You are entitled to a free annual credit report every twelve months from each of the major credit reporting agencies. Certain states allow you to get a free credit report more than once. You can also sign up for a service that allows you to pull it every day. Pulling your own credit report won’t affect your credit score.

Do credit inquiries hurt your credit?

The short answer to this question is yes: credit inquiries do hurt your credit score. But a single inquiry only has a nominal effect, usually around five points. In most cases, this won’t have a significant impact on your credit scores.

In most cases, if you’ve been comparing rates for a specific product, like a mortgage or car loan, within a few weeks, those inquiries are treated as one. But if you’ve been applying for numerous credit cards throughout the year, it can add up.

Maybe you need access to credit, or perhaps you like to play the credit card sign-up bonus game. The point is, be cognizant of how those actions look on your credit report.

Each hard inquiry hurts your credit score for a year and remains listed there for a full two years. If you apply for ten credit cards a year, that can drop your credit score by as much as 50 points or more. That can make a big difference when it comes time to apply for a major loan.

What should you do if you don’t recognize a credit inquiry?

Unfortunately, people often pull your credit report when they shouldn’t be authorized to. The checks and balances sometimes fail. So, it’s up to you to dispute the inquiry with each credit reporting agency reporting it.

Typically, when your credit report is pulled, companies are supposed to get your permission. So, it’s worth noting when a credit inquiry happens without your permission.

Lauren Ward
Meet the author

Lauren is a personal finance writer who strives to equip readers with the knowledge to achieve their financial objectives. She has over a decade of experience and a Bachelor's degree in Japanese from Georgetown University.