For many of us, credit reports are mysterious, and sometimes scary, records of our financial history. We know that we should check them often; invalid items show up sometimes which need to be disputed. But did you know that businesses can pull your credit report without your permission? It’s true. And when you consider the fact that pulling your report can potentially lower your credit score, it’s no wonder some card holders are unhappy.
Why does it affect your score when someone checks your credit? It doesn’t always. Sometimes creditors can check your credit report with a “soft” inquiry, which doesn’t count against you. This is the type of credit check that is performed when you check your own credit or get pre-screened by credit card companies. “Hard” inquiries occur when you actively apply for a line of credit, such as a credit card or a loan. These inquiries can decrease your credit score. Creditors don’t like to see a lot of hard inquiries in a short period of time. When too many hard inquiries are present, the suggestion is that you’re applying for more credit than you can handle – a big no-no.
Problems start when businesses use hard inquiries without a person’s knowledge or consent. It’s typical for employers to check your credit in this way, but even rental car agencies will pull your credit report if you reserve a car using a debit card rather than a credit card. Renting a car is not a good reason for a decrease in your credit score. Some customers have been able to dispute these hard inquiries in the same way that they dispute other items on their credit reports. Others aren’t overly concerned. Hard inquiries lose their impact over a relatively short amount of time.
There are other circumstances where your credit report can be subject to hard inquiries without your consent. These include credit transactions and collections; any business transaction that you initiate; underwriting insurance; reviewing any open account to ensure that your credit is still good enough to qualify for said account; and determining your eligibility for government benefits which are dependent upon your financial situation.
If you’re concerned about items that could be having a negative impact on your credit score, order a copy of your credit report. You’re eligible for one free copy per year. Visit a site like AnnualCreditReport.Com to request your report from all three of the major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Once you receive your report, dispute any items that you feel are undeserved. You can do this by sending a certified letter to the creditor and the credit bureaus stating your claim that the items are invalid and should be removed. The FTC offers a sample letter template on their web site. The creditor will have thirty days to respond. If they fail to prove that the item is valid, it will be removed from your credit report. You’re entitled to a copy of the corrected report. Also, think about subscribing to a low-cost credit monitoring service to keep an eye on your credit score and the things that affect it.
It’s a sad truth that we don’t always have control over the things that impact our credit score. But by ordering your credit report and disputing any unwarranted negative items, you will have the satisfaction of righting the wrongs and saving your financial future.