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Your Credit Report Is Safer Than You Fear

Remember the old TV show Bewitched?  How Mrs. Kravitz used to peek through the windows in an attempt to get a glimpse of what was going on in the Stevens household?

Shut the drapes! I’d yell at the screen time and time again.

In the real world, you’re right to worry about the privacy of your credit information.  When the Fair Credit Reporting Act was being drafted, Congress made sure your credit reporting information could be released only for specific permissible purposes.

Permissible Purpose And The Fair Credit Reporting Act

In order to obtain a copy of someone’s credit report, you must have a permissible purpose.  Without having a reason plucked from the language of the statute, it’s not permitted.

In that way, Congress ensured that you have the protections of privacy when it comes to the release of your information.

Here are the permissible purposes as outlined by the FCRA:

  1. a credit report may be issued in repose to a court order, subpoena or Grand Jury request;
  2. a consumer (that would be you) can authorize the release of their credit report to anyone who wants to see it;
  3. an existing or potential creditor has a permissible purpose under the Fair Credit Reporting Act in connection with a “credit transaction” involving the extension of credit to you, or in connection with the review or collection of one of your existing accounts;
  4. it’s permissible for a potential employer to get a copy of your credit record in connection with employment, so long as you consent to the release and the employer agrees to make certain disclosures if adverse action is taken based in any part on the report;
  5. an insurance company can get a copy of your credit report in connection with underwriting a policy for you;
  6. the government has a permissible purpose if it gets a copy of your report in connection with issuing a government license or other benefit (such as public assistance); and
  7. whenever there’s a legitimate business need.

Ensuring Your Privacy

Your nosy neighbor, a stranger, or some random company can’t just decide to grab a copy of your credit report.  Without a permissible purpose, they’ve got no legal right to do so.  If someone gets a copy of your credit report without a permissible purpose, you’ve got the right to sue them for violating your rights.

Of course, that’s cold comfort – it would be better to avoid the lawsuit and simply lay hands off your report.  Unfortunately, the world is not always a logical or perfect place.  The only way to be protected is to get copies of all three (3) major credit reports every few months and vigilantly review them.

I know, you get only one copy of each report per year.  Paying for them is a drag, but it’s a drop in the bucket financially as compared with the damage Mrs. Kravitz can do otherwise.

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By |February 10th, 2012|

About the Author:

I've been a consumer protection lawyer since 1995, working to help people end their bill problems. I'm a faculty member at the Student Loan Law Workshop, a nationally recognized speaker, and a long-time member of both the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys and National Association of Consumer Advocates.
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