Will you be a good employee?
Are you likely to wreck your car?
Is your checking account frequently overdrawn?
Are you in poor health?
Will you default on your mortgage?
Does your home have water damage?
Will you trash the apartment or vacate with rent unpaid?
These are some of the unspoken questions asked by employers, landlords, creditors, insurers and banks as you – the consumer – make your way through the normal affairs of adult life. To the company that may give you a job, write an insurance policy, or rent you an apartment, you represent a risk – the unknown – and companies feel a need to assess their “risk” in dealing with you. Of course, you won’t be asked these questions outright, but those who want to rate your “risk level” are turning more than ever to specialized “consumer reports” to find out more about you.
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) covers reports about your overall financial health. Credit reports allow a lender to see whether you pay your bills on time, have filed for bankruptcy, or have an outstanding court judgment or collection action against you. However, despite its name, the FCRA covers a lot more than simply credit reports. Credit reports are just one of a broader category of consumer reports covered by the FCRA.
Specialty reporting companies focus on certain industries. Their reports can may include information about you provided to employers, insurance companies, banks, and landlords. In recent years, many new companies have sprouted, compiling reports specifically targeted at employers, insurers, and landlords. The companies that compile reports for targeted users are “consumer reporting agencies” under the FCRA, just like the three national credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
Companies that compile reports on consumers for other than credit are known as “nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies.” These agencies compile reports about much more than just your credit history. These reports can cover such things as your medical records, residential or tenant history, check writing history, employment history, and insurance claims. The FCRA gives consumers the right to a free report from a “nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency” once every 12 months.
This fact sheet includes information about companies that are considered to be nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies as well as other companies that offer consumers free access to their reports.