As a consumer, you’ve probably heard about the importance of monitoring your credit reports for any signs of suspicious activity, and staying on top of your credit score to make sure your purchasing power is all that it should be.
Your reports and your score are compiled by the three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. They compile information on your credit card accounts, any debt and collections issues, even inquiries by other agencies into your credit. As a US consumer, you’re entitled to one free copy of each of these agencies’ reports every year, and the instructions for getting those reports can be found here.
While these might be the “big dogs” of the credit reporting world, there are far more credit agencies than just these three and they have different functions. Known as “specialty credit reporting agencies,” these other entities have specific focuses that pertain to your buying history and consumer behaviors.
There’s an agency dedicated to your banking activity, such as keeping up with how many bounced checks you’ve had. Another agency deals with real estate, specifically apartment or home rentals, that monitors missed payments to your landlord. Other agencies check up on your history of payments to your utility companies or to medical facilities, and more. However, not all of these agencies will have information to report on you; if you’ve never rented an apartment, for example, or if you rented from a family friend who didn’t report you for missing a rent payment, then that agency might not be able to compile a report.
Who gets to access your specialty credit reports? They’re typically requested by lenders in very detailed circumstances. A potential landlord might not care about your Experian report, since that may not include data on what kind of tenant you’ll be when it comes to paying on time. The utility company also doesn’t have a lot of interest in your credit card history, but will certainly want to know from the specialty credit reporting agency that addresses public utilities what your past behavior has been like.
Now for the good news: if you care to know, you’re entitled to copies of these reports, too. Some of them will be free once per year like your major credit reports, while others may charge you a nominal fee for the information. However, if you are ever faced with an issue—like being turned down for an apartment or declined a bank account—based on the information in these reports, you’re entitled to a free copy at that time. You may also receive a free report if your identity has been stolen and used in a way that a specialty credit reporting agency would monitor, such as opening phone service or other utilities in your name.
For more information on specialty credit reporting and how it can affect you, read more at ConsumerFinance.gov.
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