Consumers now have access to specialized credit reports

Many Americans know that they have access to free copies of their credit reports from the three most popular credit agencies every year, thanks to a federal law (and some state laws allow them even more than that in some cases), but now a new rule says that they may be able to have access to even more.

The three credit reports to which consumers have free access to annually are issued by Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, and generally summarize the state of a borrower's various accounts. But some smaller credit reporting bureaus also keep track of information to which lenders and other companies have access, but consumers may not, according to a report from the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. As such, the agency issued a rule stating that, like the largest participators in the credit reporting industry, the smaller specialty firms will likewise have to grant borrowers, for whom they have information, access to their credit reports once a year.

What is on these other credit reports?
While the credit reports issued by the large companies are essentially a summary of the various accounts in a person's name (mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, student financing, and so forth) and their standing. Those from smaller firms will contain information about things related to consumers' finances but not specifically credit, the report said. For instance, some may keep tabs on things like outstanding medical debts, which don't always show up on standard credit reports. Others might list how regularly a person pays rent, or if they've ever written a bad check. Some even keep tabs on employment history and insurance claims.

All this information can be accessed by entities willing to pay for it, and that can include anything from service providers like cable or cellphone companies to potential landlords, the report said. However, like all credit reports, there is the possibility that these documents might have unfair markings that can mar a person's standing, even if it doesn't affect their credit, which is the primary reason the CFPB put the new rules in place.

How to check with these companies
In all, there are about 40 specialty reporting companies that the CFPB now requires to provide consumers with this information, the report said. However, it's important to note that many of them don't keep track of all the information listed above, and for this reason, it's likely that they don't have reports on every consumer.

Further, not all of them are legally required to give the information for free, the report said. However, they must provide them at what the CFPB calls a reasonable fee, which is currently capped at $11.50 per report. Many, however, will do so at no cost.

To that end, and in the interest of helping consumers find all the available information about themselves they might need, the CFPB compiled a list of all the companies that are now required to provide consumers with low-cost or free reports on their financial standing, the report said. This list also includes toll-free numbers and Web addresses for these companies, as well as the specific information they compile.

The CFPB also advises that consumers take the time to check these documents if they suspect that they have been victimized by identity theft, or that someone may have fraudulently cashed checks in their name, the report said. Further, the agency says it might be a good idea to check them before applying for insurance or a lease, or for a job that requires authorization to run a credit check.

When else can you check your credit for free?
Many consumers know that the site run by the government will grant them one copy of their report from each of the credit reporting bureaus, but they may not know that they are also entitled to that data in other instances as well, the report said. For example, if they are denied credit, insurance, employment or something else for which they applied, the organization that rejected their submission is legally required to provide them with the information they used to determine their ineligibility.

That means that if a bad credit report cost a job applicant their chance at a position, the company must provide that document to them, the report said. The same is true for a credit score for those rejected for a loan or, now, a specialty report for something like a lease application that was turned down.

The importance of consumers checking their credit reports over carefully for any unfair markings cannot be overstated, as these entries can have a severe negative impact on many aspects of their financial lives. Working with a credit repair firm may help to clear up these issues.

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