The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) cautioned specialty agencies that providing consumers access to a free credit report once a year wasn’t a law written for just Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. The specialty reporting companies are also required by law to make it easy for consumers to obtain those free reports, including providing a toll-free number for requests.
So what exactly are specialty reporting companies?
They are businesses that collect nationwide data and information on things like medical records or payments, residential or tenant history, check-writing history, employment history or insurance claims. Just like the three largest credit bureaus, they gather and report information about you to creditors, landlords and employers, among others.
To help you find out how to access specialty and other consumer reports, the CFPB created a list of approximately 40 companies, with information on how to contact the companies to request free reports.
The CFPB notes that while you don’t have to request a report from every specialty company on the list (in fact, many may not even have any information about you), you should consider if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, are planning on applying for insurance or a lease, or if you’ve applied for a new job and your potential employer asks for written authorization to pull a report.
This is a major win for consumers, said Adrian Nazari, CEO of Credit Sesame. The more access consumers have to their financial data the better. However, it is equally important for consumers to understand all the different reports, what they mean for their credit files and how the different kinds of reports impact them financially. For example, a report on your check-writing history may not have the same impact on your credit score as an unpaid medical debt. Consumers need to know what they’re looking at, why and how they can benefit from it. This will help them not only understand their financial lives more easily, but take steps to improve it as well.