This article is by Suba Iyer, who currently writes for FiveCentNickel.com.
Ever wonder why you had to pay a deposit to get your utilities turned on when your friend didn't? Have you noticed that the health insurance premiums for two self-employed people can be different? Well, there are consumer reporting companies in many industries that “… collect information and provide reports on consumers that are used to decide whether to provide consumers credit, insurance, or employment, and for other purposes” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Likewise, there are more than 300 background check agencies that will do a background check on you and tell you what there is to know about you, including your financial health — and they are more than willing to charge for the service too. I would like to keep a tab on what information is out there about me, but I'm not interested to pay for the privilege. Thankfully, agencies that collect and maintain a database with my financial information come under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) so I can get all of these reports for free once every 12 months.
I recently made a list of reports that are available about me. If it affects the choices available to me and their costs, I want to make sure the information is accurate. Wouldn't you? Most of these reporting companies offer online links that allow you to get their report for free; but, actually, five of them apparently require that you conduct business over their toll-free number. The link to the report usually also has the information on how to dispute its contents if you find that is necessary.
1. Annual Credit Report
Everyone knows about the importance of credit reports and the role they play in our day-to-day lives. You can get your credit reports from the three major bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) through AnnualCreditReports.com. Some people get all their reports at once, but others choose to space it out and get one every four months.
This is another credit reporting agency, though not as widely used as the big three listed above. This report is not always free — it depends on the state — but if you have been denied credit in the last 60 days, then you can get it for free, even if it is not free in your state.
Early Warning is another agency that collects consumer information but specializes in identity theft and fraud prevention. To request your consumer report information, call their customer service at 800-325-7775.
The consumer banking report provides information to financial institutions to help them identify applicants who may have a history of mishandling their accounts (for example, people whose accounts were overdrawn and then closed by them or their bank).
4. Chex Systems
Chex Systems is the major consumer banking reporting agency that is used by most banks and credit unions. Have you ever been asked to start your checking account with a large deposit? There may be something clogging your ChexSystem report. Every incident stays on record for five years.
5. Check-cashing Reports
When you cash a check in a retail store or pay via check for any purchases, you will be checked against a database maintained by check verification agencies like the Shared Check Authorization Network, SCAN (1-800-262-7771) & Telecheck (you can request your free report by calling 1-800-366-2425). If you had a declined check or you suspect you are a victim of check fraud, you can obtain a Telecheck report or call 800-262-7771 to obtain a SCAN report.
Auto insurance reports
6. C.L.U.E Auto Report
The C.L.U.E. Auto report records every automobile incident report that you make and it stays on the record for seven years. This report is used by a lot of insurance agencies.
Property loss insurance reports
7. C.L.U.E Personal Property Report
The C.L.U.E. Personal Property report provides a similar seven-year history of losses — but instead of the car, this report records incidents of losses to your personal property.
8. A-PLUS Loss History
“A-PLUS” stands for “Automobile-Property Loss Underwriting Service.” In their website, they claim that 95 percent of the insurance industry contributes records to populate their database.
Tenant history reports
9. LexisNexis Tenant History
Tenant history is compiled from property management companies nationwide, though it is not comprehensive. This data is accessed by resident screening companies for use during the application process of prospective residents. The LexisNexis report is called the LexisNexis Screening Solutions Resident History Report.
Experian® RentBureau® collects rental histories from property management companies nationwide. This data is accessed by resident screening companies for use during the application process of prospective residents.
11. CoreLogic Safe Rent
A SafeRent file may include criminal and/or landlord-tenant records as well as rental performance history.
There are a lot of agencies that provide tenant-screening information. The easiest way to access this report is to ask the rental agency for a copy or ask the name of the company doing the screening and apply for your own report.
Medical history reports
12. MIB Consumer File
The medical information consumer file is compiled from life, disability income, health, long-term care or critical illness insurers. This file contains a lot of information about your medical (tests, drugs, history of illness, etc.) and non-medical (your habits, hobbies, etc.) history. Don't panic if they don't have a record for you. This record might not be there if you have never applied for private insurance.
13. Prescription Drug History
Intelliscript and Medpoint are two major databases that keep track of the prescription drug medications and report them to the insurance agencies. The name of the drug, dosage and refills are all maintained for up to five years. With the drug information, insurers can make assumptions about your health conditions. You can request a copy of your prescription drug report by calling (888)206-0335 (Medpoint) and (877)211-4816 (IntelliScript).
Employment history reports
14. LexisNexis Employment History Report
The LexisNexis Employment History Report contains information related to your prior employment (period and positions of employment) as well as other information regarding your background (including education verification). LexisNexis is one of the major providers for employee screening; but as I mentioned above, there are more than 300 agencies providing this service, according to the National Association for Professional Background Screeners. So the best way to get this report is to ask your employer for a copy of the report or the name of the agency and get it from them.
Social media reports
There are no regulated agencies that are collecting this information (yet). But companies claiming to compile the data have been popping up slowly and there is a big market out there for this type of service. There is no report, but it is wise to google yourself and see if what it provides is the picture you want the whole world to see. Make sure your privacy settings are up to date and know whom you are “friend”-ing.
Whether we like it or not, all these reports are out there and being used by others to make decisions about us, such as, how much we pay for certain things, how much insurance we get, and whether we pay a deposit to get the power turned on. It is important that these records are accurate.
I usually get my credit reports every four months (one from each agency) and the rest of the reports every couple of years, but there are other ways to monitor your credit too. If you are looking for a job or are in the market for a new house or insurance, you should find out what they know.
Were you aware of specialty consumer reports and how they affect your finances? Have you ever done a free online background check on yourself to see what information a specialty consumer report contains about you?