When applying for a job or filling out a rental agreement, most people know that having a low credit score may hurt them. However, that score isn't the only report that a potential employer or landlord might review about you.
You may have never heard of a "specialty consumer report"—but that doesn't mean one hasn't affected you. In fact, for most of us, an employer or landlord has likely evaluated us based on what these reports say at one time or another.
What Specialty Consumer Reporting Agencies Do
Consumer reporting agencies (such as Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) collect information about your financial history to determine your credit score. Specialty consumer reporting agencies, on the other hand, mostly collect non-financial information that may indicate a person’s reliability as an employee, tenant, customer, etc.
Specialty consumer reporting agencies sell these reports to organizations to help them in their decision-making processes. Typically, these reports help organizations answer questions like:
- Is a person being honest about his/her employment history?
- Is an individual being honest about his/her health history?
- Is a person a reckless driver?
- Is it likely that this person will pay his/her cellphone bill on time?
Information Specialty Consumer Reporting Agencies Collect
Traditional consumer reporting agencies look at five financial factors (like your payment history and how much you owe) to determine your credit score. Specialty consumer reporting agencies won't score you like that; rather, they'll collect information about your behavior.
These are a number of different specialty agencies, and they collect different behavioral indicators about you. This includes your:
- Employment records
- Educational background
- Insurance claims
- Bounced checks
- Medical conditions
- Prescription drug use
These agencies will use this information to create different types of specialty reports. Some of the most common ones include:
- Alternative credit history
- Background screening
- Employment history screening
- Check-writing and bank account history
- History of insurance claims
- Medical and prescription history
- Residential tenant history
- Utilities payment records
Requesting Specialty Consumer Reports
As with your traditional credit report, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) entitles you to a free copy of your specialty consumer reports once every 12 months, as well as when an "adverse action" is taken against you because of a report. Examples of "adverse actions" include being denied a rental, employment position, or insurance.
With your credit report, it's easy to request your free annual copy from AnnualCreditReport.com. Unfortunately, there's no central website like that for specialty consumer reports. You'll have to contact these agencies directly. You can find a full list them here.
If you find inaccuracies on your report, you can dispute them directly through each agency. Instructions for disputing an error may differ between agencies, but you can find an example of the general process here.
Requesting all these reports may seem like a pain, but it's worth doing periodically to ensure what employers, landlords, and other companies see about you is accurate After all, they may make decisions based on what they find.