Requesting a customer’s credit report is permissible by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as long as the person or business requesting the report follows certain guidelines. It is illegal to pull the credit report of anyone other than yourself without express permission. The purposes can be related to employment, credit, insurance and benefits, or to obtain a rental. Failure to gain permission prior to requesting a credit report can result in criminal charges.
Ask permission to pull the credit report. Written permission is best. If your business is online, having a check box next to a disclaimer is sufficient. If the permission is verbal, record the customer’s authorization.
Give the customer a copy of the document titled: "A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act." This document is available from any of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion). See references.
Contact the credit bureau you wish to obtain the credit report from. Your choices are TransUnion, Equifax or Experian. You will need to provide your business name and location, as well as the customer’s name, Social Security number, address and date of birth. You will be asked if you have permission to pull the credit file and may be asked the reason you are pulling the credit file.
Give the customer the name of the credit bureau that you pulled the credit report from if you do not accept them as a customer. Include the address and phone number of the credit bureau. Also include a statement that the credit bureau did not make the decision to deny credit and explain to the customer that he may contact the credit bureau for a free copy of his credit report within 60 days of the denial.
Keep the customer’s permission and credit report on file for two years. This will protect you in the event a claim is made that the credit report was pulled without permission.
Once you have approved a customer, you can pull their credit report without additional permission. A parent can pull the credit report of a minor child without permission.
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