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What You Need To Know About The Hidden Credit Reporting Agencies

Specialty Consumer Reporting AgenciesWhen you think about a credit reporting agency, your mind probably goes to the “big three” – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. What about the “hidden players” of credit reporting?

You apply for a new apartment or house, someone looks at … something … to figure out whether you’re going to be able to move in.

A new employer digs into your background before letting you in the door.

The insurance company uses information to determine how much you’re going to pay for a premium.

Most of the time, they’re not looking at one of the major credit reports.

Welcome to the world of the specialty consumer report.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, there’s a special category of consumer reporting agencies. These “specialty consumer reporting agencies” are the ones who don’t maintain files not of your general credit cards, mortgages and other consumer finance accounts. As the name suggests, these companies have far more specific types of files about you.

What Are Specialty Consumer Reporting Agencies?

The FCRA defines speciality consumer reporting agencies as those companies that compile and maintain files on consumers on a nationwide basis relating to –

  1. medical records or payments;
  2. residential or tenant history;
  3. check writing history;
  4. employment history; or
  5. insurance claims.

Companies fitting into this category may be set up to help insurance companies with their underwriting guidelines or assist landlords in deciding whether to rent you a place to live. There are also companies that provide information to banks about whether you’ve bounced checks in the past.

Types Of Information Maintained By Specialty Consumer Reporting Agencies

Whereas a “regular” credit reporting agency would have information about your loans, mortgages, student loans, credit cards and the like, these “artisanal” companies keep records about very specific aspects of your life. Examples include:

  • personal healthcare information;
  • medical and prescription drug history;
  • check writing history;
  • rental history and evictions;
  • income and employment history;
  • casino markers and repayment; and
  • homeowner and auto insurance claims.

Basically, if your name is attached to a transaction then there’s likely a specialty consumer reporting agency compiling information about it.

When And How To Get Copies Of Your Specialty Consumer Reports

Remember, the information maintained by the speciality consumer reporting agency is critical to you in certain situations. Under the FCRA, you have the right to get a free copy of your report from each of these companies; it’s a smart move to do so once a year even if you don’t have any particular reason. It would be a bad idea to find out about inaccurate information once it’s too late to act, after all.

  • You should also get a copy of specific reports when:
  • you are shopping for new homeowner’s or automobile insurance;
  • you have for some reason had problems with your checking or savings account;
  • you are looking for a new job or undergoing a background check;
  • you are renting an apartment or home; or
  • you are applying for private health, life, long-term care, or disability insurance.

Some Of the Major Specialty Consumer Reporting Agencies

It’s impossible to list every single company compiling specialty information, but these are some of the biggies. When in doubt, ask a company whether they check any of your consumer reports and which companies they use.

Checking And Savings Accounts

Background Checks And Employment Screening

Insurance

Medical

Error On A Specialty Consumer Report?

These specialty consumer reporting agencies are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  If there’s an inaccuracy, you’ve got the same rights any remedies against these players as you would against any of the “big guns”.

Image credit:  guiltyx

By |March 8th, 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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