Some of your background, including any criminal history, is usually a matter of public record and may be attainable by anyone without your consent. Other background information, including your credit score and financial history, is protected by federal privacy laws like the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Fortunately, there are several ways to detect if someone conducts an unauthorized inquiry into this protected information.
You must give your written permission for anyone to conduct an investigation into your background. This permission may be given in the fine print of a job application, tenant questionnaire or credit card application. Once you sign the document, it can be considered a form of consent to the investigation. If anyone uses your identifying information, including your Social Security number and driver's license number, to conduct a background check, this person may be committing identity theft or fraud depending on how your identifying information was obtained.
Credit Inquiry Notification
If a company takes a negative action as a result of looking into your credit background, the company is required under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to notify you of the action in writing. A negative action can be a variety of credit issues, including turning you down for a credit card or personal loan. The financial institution or credit card company is also required to inform you of these reasons for why the negative action was taken against you. For example, a negative action notice might inform you of the company's refusal of your credit card application due to a bad credit score.
Credit Score Impact
Frequent investigations into your credit history and financial background can have a negative impact on your credit score. You may be able to tell if creditors are performing investigations in your financial history by a sudden dip in your credit score, which manifests in higher interests rates on your existing accounts. If you are receiving a number of pre-approved credit card offers in the mail, this may be an indication of heightened credit background monitoring.
Monitor Your Credit Report
You can determine if anyone viewed your credit history by requesting a copy of your credit report from each major credit reporting bureau. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit bureaus to make your credit report available to you free of charge at least once every 12 months. You may also purchase credit monitoring protection from an approved financial institution. This protection informs you whenever someone performs an inquiry into your financial background. This helps guard against identity theft and fraud.
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: FAQ on Employment Background Checks
- The Legal Aid Society: Credit Reports and Background Checks
- Equifax. "What is a Credit Report and What Does It Include?" Accessed Nov. 19, 2019.
- Experian. "What is Not On Your Credit Report?" Accessed Nov. 19, 2019.
- TransUnion. "What is a Credit Reporting Agency?" Accessed Nov. 19, 2019.
- Federal Trade Commission. "Free Credit Report." Accessed Nov. 19, 2019.
- Experian. "How Lenders View Your Credit." Accessed Nov. 19, 2019.
- Legal Information Institute. "15. U.S.Code § 1681c. Requirements Relating to Information Contained in Consumer Reports." Accessed Nov. 19, 2019.
- Legal Information Institute. "15 U.S. Code § 1681i. Procedure in Case of Disputed Accuracy." Accessed Nov. 19, 2019.
Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.