- Your Right to Free Annual Reports from Nationwide Specialty Consumer Reporting Agencies
- Should I Try to Order All of the Specialty Reports Listed in this Guide?
- Home and Auto Insurance Claims Reports
- Medical and Prescription Drug History Reports
- Tenant Screening Reports
- Banking and Check Writing History Reports
- Employment Background Screening Reports
- The Work Number Employment Data Reports
- Low Income and Subprime Lender Reports
- National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange (NCTUE)
- LexisNexis Accurint Reports
- LexisNexis Full File Disclosure
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives consumers the right to free consumer reports from so-called nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies every 12 months. Specialty reporting agencies compile reports about such things as your:
- Residential or tenant history
- Check writing and banking history
- Employment history
- Insurance claims
- Medical records and prescription history
This guide includes information about your right to access specialty consumer reports and other similar reports. For some specialty reports, one or two companies dominate the market. This means it will be easier for you to find out where to direct your request. For other areas, such as employment and rental history, specialty reports may be prepared by many different companies, making it difficult to know where to look.
The FCRA gives consumers the right to a free report from a nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency once every 12 months. Requests must be made directly to each specialty reporting agency. There is not a central source for obtaining your free specialty reports.
Each agency must establish a toll-free telephone number for requesting consumer reports. Some, but not all, agencies allow online, faxed, or mail-in requests. The only requirement is that specialty agencies establish a toll-free number, published anywhere the company does business. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has issued CFPB Bulletin 2012-09 reminding nationwide specialty consumer reporting companies that they must give consumers an easy way to get a free copy of their specialty reports.
Specialty reporting agencies:
- May collect only as much information as necessary to identity you, generally the same information necessary for a free credit report (name, address, Social Security number).
- Must give you, if you ask, an update on the status of your request. However, there is no time limit on when your request must be processed.
- Must provide a “help” or “frequently asked questions” screen if requests are processed online.
What information goes into a “specialty” report?
Specialty consumer reporting agencies operate much like credit bureaus. The agencies collect information about you from a variety of sources, including:
- Public records of criminal or civil cases
- Your credit history
- Bankruptcy filings
- Companies with which you have an existing or prior business relationship, such as insurance companies or banks
- Your medical information
- Driving records
From this information, the specialty reporting agency compiles reports based on the requirements of targeted users such as insurance companies, employers, and landlords.
How do I know if there’s a specialty report on me?
Unfortunately, most consumers are in the dark about the very existence of specialty consumer reports. Usually people learn about specialty reports only after having been denied a job, insurance, or an apartment rental.
Will I get the same information the insurer, landlord, employer, or other business gets?
Although this guide refers to free “reports,” the FCRA technically gives you the right to a free “file disclosure.” There is a difference between your “report” and your “file.”
Under the FCRA, a “consumer report” is:
…any written, oral, or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics or mode of living ….(FCRA §609(d)(1))
Your “file” is:
…all of the information on [you] recorded and retained by a consumer reporting agency regardless of how the information is stored. (FCRA §609(g))
In other words, the report is the document provided to the employer, landlord, insurer or creditor. The report reflects information collected and compiled at any given time. Your “file” on the other hand is the information the consumer reporting agency already maintains about you. Your right to a free disclosure is to your “file,” not your “report.”
Do I have any rights to dispute errors in my specialty report?
Yes. Under the FCRA, you have the right to dispute inaccurate information in any specialty report prepared about you. When you dispute information, the reporting agency has an obligation to investigate and correct any inaccurate or outdated information. The company that provided the incorrect information must also correct the error.
Some reports listed here may not technically fall under the FCRA. In that case, the specialty agency might not be obligated to offer you an opportunity to dispute any errors. The distinction is not always clear, as explained in this summary of a class action lawsuit in Berry v. LexisNexis Risk & Analytics Group.
If an entity is not regulated under the FCRA, then it may be an unregulated data broker. Consumers generally have no federal right to know what information data brokers have compiled about them for marketing purposes. No federal law provides consumers with the right to correct inaccuracies in the data or assumptions made by data brokers. PRC's guide Data Brokers and Your Privacy further explains this distinction.
Who can I complain to if I have a problem with my specialty report?
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the regulatory authority for most consumer reporting agencies. You can file a complaint online or by call the CFPB at (855) 411-2372.
We encourage consumers to find out about the information that is stored with consumer reporting agencies. Doing so enables you to detect inaccuracies that might result in the denial of financial or other benefits, or that might indicate the presence of fraud or other misuse of your information. However, ordering all of your reports will be time-consuming. You have the right to choose the reports that you want to see based on your individual needs.
Most individuals will not want to order all of the specialty reports listed in this guide. Even though they are free, there is probably no need to expend the time and effort to get every report available to you. There is one exception. If you have been a victim of identity theft, we recommend you order all available reports. Information in your specialty report may overlap information in your credit report. It is important to correct inaccuracies no matter where they appear.
In many cases, the specialty reporting agency will not have a file on you unless you are a victim of identity theft. For example, an employment background screening company is unlikely to have a file on you unless an employer has already ordered a background report on you. Likewise, The Work Number should not have a file on you unless a current or past employer has contracted with them.
Here are our recommendations for situations in which you probably will want to order one or more of your specialty reports:
- If you are shopping for new homeowner’s or automobile insurance, order a copy of your CLUE or A-Plus claims report. And if you have filed claims on existing policies, it’s a good idea to check the report to make sure the information is accurate. Sometimes, simply calling an insurance agent with a question can result in a “black mark” to your CLUE or A-Plus report. You will want to make sure that such inquiries are removed.
- If you are concerned that someone may have opened a cell phone account in your name, check your NCTUE report.
- If someone has fraudulently cashed checks against your account or you have for some reason had problems with your checking or savings account, order your banking and check writing history reports.
- If you are applying for a new job, you will want to obtain your Employment Data Report from the Work Number if you have ever worked for a company that uses their service.
- If a potential or existing employer asks your permission to run a background check, ask for the name of the screening company. Contact the company as soon as the report has been issued because screening companies may not maintain permanent files.
- If you want to rent an apartment or home, ask the landlord for the name of the tenant screening company he or she uses, if any. There are many companies involved in this market and you will need to know where to look to exercise your right to a free report.
- If you are applying for private life, long-term care, or disability insurance, order your MIB report. If your reports contain erroneous information, you will want to make sure it is corrected before you apply for insurance.
- For a good overall "check-up," you may wish to order your LexisNexis Full File Disclosure and/or Accurint Reports.
- If you have been a victim of identity theft, we recommend you order all available reports.
Consumer Action offers additional suggestions on when to order specialty reports.
Specialty reports that tell insurers about claims you have made against your homeowner’s or automobile insurance polices are prepared by two companies: LexisNexis (CLUE report) and Verisk Insurance Services (A-Plus report). For more details on insurance claims reports, see PRC's guide CLUE and You: How Insurers Size You Up.
To order your automobile or homeowner’s CLUE report, call LexisNexis at (866) 312-8076 or visit the LexisNexis website.
To request a free Verisk A-Plus loss-history report, call their Consumer Report Request Line at 800-627-3487 or visit their website.
Drivers History provides reports to the insurance industry containing information and data collected from open public sources and governmental agencies regarding driving violations issued to specific individuals. Request a free consumer report by calling 855-694-1555 or visiting their website.
The Affordable Care Act makes it unlawful for a health insurer to deny coverage or charge a higher premium to an applicant with a pre-existing condition. However, medical and prescription drug history reports may still be used by insurers to evaluate applicants for other types of insurance, such as life, disability or long-term care insurance.
MIB Group Inc. (formerly The Medical Information Bureau) is a nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency that compiles and maintains records concerning individual life, health, long-term care, and disability insurance. Generally, you will have an MIB file only if you have applied for one of these insurance products within the last seven years, and only if you’ve applied as an individual rather than as a member of a group.
If you have no significant medical condition and have not applied for insurance as an individual, you are not likely to have an MIB report. The report includes information that you have reported on an insurance application or that the insurance company has obtained from your healthcare provider indicating a medical condition that insurance companies consider significant. MIB assigns you codes that indicate medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and so on.
MIB’s toll-free number for disclosure is (866) 692-6901 (TTY (866) 346-3642 for hearing impaired) or request your record online.
IntelliScript reports prescription drug purchase histories to insurance companies. Like the MIB reports, IntelliScript is used primarily when consumers are seeking private health, life or disability insurance.
IntelliScript reports are available by calling (877) 211-4816. Consumers will have to provide their full name, date of birth, last four digits of their Social Security number and current zip code. IntelliScript will provide a copy of any information the company has on an individual as well as the names of insurance companies that have requested a prescription history. The company's website includes information about the product as well as additional contact information.
Quest Diagnostics ScriptCheck also reports prescription drug purchase histories to insurance companies. Like IntelliScript, it is used when consumers are applying for insurance. ScriptCheck reports are available by calling (844) 225-8047. Consumers will have to provide their full name, date of birth, address, Social Security number, phone number, and the name of the insurance company.
With a history of prescription drugs in hand, insurers may make assumptions about medical conditions and assess the risk of writing an insurance policy. Information in an IntelliScript or ScriptCheck report may prompt an insurer to deny coverage for certain conditions, increase insurance premiums, or deny coverage altogether. Such adverse actions by insurance companies trigger a sequence of consumer rights under the FCRA.
A number of companies prepare reports for landlords concerning individuals who have applied to rent housing. Consumers may have a particularly difficult time exercising their right to a free specialty report when the market is saturated with agencies. This may prove to be the case for tenants who want to check their file. If you learn you will be subject to a tenant screen, you may save yourself a lot of time and trouble by simply asking the landlord the name and contact information for the screening company.
The Consumer Finance Protection Board (CFPB) maintains a list of consumer reporting companies that includes most nationwide tenant screening companies. There are also local companies that prepare tenant screening reports.
Several companies provide reports on your check writing history:
- ChexSystems is a nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency that collects and maintains information from member financial institutions such as banks and credit unions. If a bank closes your checking account because of insufficient funds, for example, it will make a report to ChexSystems that other banks will check when you apply for new accounts. You may call (800) 428-9623 or visit the ChexSystems website to obtain your free report.
- TeleCheck maintains a database of returned checks and instances of fraud. It provides check authorization and verification to member retailers. Call (800) 835-3243 or visit their website to obtain your free report
- Certegy Check Services collects check writing histories and provides check screening services for retailers who accept checks as payment in their stores. Call (866) 543-6315 or visit their website to obtain your free report.
- Early Warning Services assists payment processors and check acceptance companies by providing real-time verification against high-risk accounts and identifying items at the point-of-sale with a high likelihood of returning unpaid. Call (800) 325-7775 or visit their website to obtain your free report.
Generally, an employment background screening report will exist on you only if someone has already paid to have a report compiled. Obtaining a free copy of your employment report can be a frustrating exercise – unless you know the name the company that performs the background screening. Unfortunately, under the FCRA an employer need not tell you the name of the company that will screen you.
Under California law, on the other hand, an employer must give you this information up front, when you are given the notice and permission documents to sign (California Civil Code §1786.12(2)(B)(iv)). In addition, California laws allows you to get a copy of your report for two years (California Civil Code 1786.11). For more on employment background checks in California, see PRC's guide Employment Background Checks in California: New Focus on Accuracy.
Under the FCRA, the employer must give you notice that a background screening may be conducted, and the employer must get your permission. Notice and permission must be given on a separate document, not buried in an application or another form. However, the FCRA does not require an employer to tell you the name of the screening company or tell you how to get a copy of your report. The employer need only give you a copy of the report if he or she decides not to hire you or denies you a promotion if you are a current employee. But it’s important that you keep in mind -- your right to a free employment report does not hinge on the employer’s action.
To say you have the right to a free specialty employment report means little if you don’t know where to look. That’s because hundreds of companies are now engaged in employment background screening. The National Association of Professional Background Screeners lists over 300 member background check companies.
The Consumer Finance Protection Board (CFPB) maintains a list of consumer reporting companies that includes contact information for some of the major employment screening companies.
If you are given notice by an employer that a background check will be conducted, we strongly suggest you ask for the name of the screening company at that time. Even when you know the name of the screening company, this may be a “hollow” right. You can only get free disclosure if the company maintains a file on you. Some employment screeners may simply evaluate you and then issue a one-time report without maintaining a file. For this reason, we suggest you make your request for a free disclosure to the screening agency soon after you get notice that a report may be prepared.
If you have ever worked in the retail industry, your name may appear in little-known databases that identify former retail employees questioned or fired regarding an alleged theft. Such databases like the one maintained by First Advantage Corporation's Esteem database, do not include an arrest or conviction. Rather, the data included is often a name along with a vague reference to an incident involving a retail employee. To receive a free file disclosure from First Advantage Corporation, see the company’s request form.
The Work Number provides employment data reports, which are entirely different from the employment background screening reports discussed in the previous section. Employment Data Reports are limited to basic employment information (such as name of employer, dates of employment, salary, and job title) obtained from participating employers. The Work Number is an employment and income verification service. It is not a background screening service.
Essentially, the Work Number permits companies to outsource certain payroll and human resource functions. Thus, it operates somewhat differently than a typical consumer reporting agency in that it only collects information from the employers with which it has contracts. The Work Number maintains information on at least 30% of the U.S. working population. It is owned by the credit reporting agency Equifax.
The Work Number will provide you with one free Employment Data Report every 12 months. You can obtain a free annual disclosure by calling (866) 604-6570 or by going to their website. You can download the Employment Data Report Request form and follow the instructions to complete and return the form. Once your request is received, your Employment Data Report will be mailed to you within 15 days.
If you believe information in your Employment Data Report is inaccurate, you may contact the Work Number’s Client Service Center at (800) 996-7566 to have your dispute investigated. Your information will be blocked from verifiers during the reinvestigation. Results of the reinvestigation will be provided within 30 days of receipt of a dispute.
Some consumers make little or no use of banks and other traditional financial providers. Instead they may utilize alternative financial services such as payday lenders, prepaid cards, check cashing services, and installment and online lenders. Consumers who use such services are sometimes referred to as "subprime" consumers and the providers are sometimes called "fringe" or "alternative" providers.
These alternative financial providers often do not report to the three nationwide credit bureaus. Since these providers do not report to the credit bureaus, it can be difficult for potential creditors to find out about your financial activity when you need credit. Several alternative consumer reports fill this gap.
The Consumer Finance Protection Board (CFPB) maintains a list of consumer reporting companies that includes a section listing low income and subprime reports.
National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange (NCTUE) is a consumer reporting agency that maintains customer data reported by utility service providers that are members of NCTUE. These providers include cellular, local, and long distance phone companies, cable and pay TV services, internet service providers, and electricity, gas, and water utilities. The data includes information about a consumer’s account history, unpaid closed accounts and customer service applications.
Consumers may obtain a free NCTUE Disclosure Report containing the information in their data report. NCTUE does not receive information from every service provider. Therefore, they may not have a Disclosure Report available for everyone. To request a copy of your NCTUE Disclosure Report call (866) 349-5185 or visit their website.
If you believe that any item contained in your NCTUE report is incomplete or inaccurate, NCTUE will investigate the matter. Complete and return the Research Request form included in the disclosure report and provide details of the information you believe is inaccurate.
The NCTUE database is housed and managed by the credit reporting agency Equifax, but it does not include Equifax credit information. Although NCTUE is managed by Equifax, if you have placed a security freeze on your Equifax credit file, it will not affect your NCTUE report. It is necessary freeze your NCTUE credit file separately on the NCTUE website.
LexisNexis provides a broad range of information to both businesses and government for numerous purposes including identity authentication, employment screening, fraud prevention, claims management, and debt collection. Information provided by LexisNexis includes public records, other publicly available information, and some non-public information.
Public records include records created and maintained by government agencies that are open for public inspection. This includes information such as real estate title records, liens, death records, and motor vehicle registrations.
Publicly available information is information about an individual that is available to the general public from non-governmental sources such as newspapers, magazine articles and telephone directories.
Some LexisNexis products contain non-public information, which may not be readily available to the general public. Non-public information is information about an individual obtained from a source that is privately owned and that is not available to the general public including commercial directories or databases compiled by other publishers. Non-public information may include the following information: current and previous addresses; Social Security Number; previous names used, such as alias names, maiden names or previous married names; birth date information; and/or telephone numbers.
Consumers can request a copy of their Accurint Comprehensive Report and/or their Accurint for Collections--Contact and Locate Comprehensive Report by using the form on their website or by calling (866) 868-9534. Consumers also will need to mail or fax a government-issued ID and proof of mailing address. Accurint Reports will be returned by U.S. mail approximately 30 to 60 days after LexisNexis receives proof of identification.
A LexisNexis Full File Disclosure includes both the consumer’s file and a public records search. You can see what information about you is maintained in LexisNexis files. This is the information that is used by LexisNexis to create consumer reports. These consumer reports may be sold to businesses with a legitimate business need for that information. The public records search will contain information available in county, state or federal public records such as real estate transaction and ownership data, lien, judgment and bankruptcy records, professional license information, and historical addresses.
The LexisNexis Full File Disclosure will include data from its specialty reports as well as additional information. The disclosure includes your CLUE reports (described in Section 4 above), current insurance carrier reports, a pre-employment background check (only if one has been previously ordered by an employer), criminal records information, and additional information that may be available in LexisNexis files.
LexisNexis offers consumers their Full File Disclosure free of charge once per year. A Full File Disclosure is available only to a consumer that requests their own file, when the request is submitted with proper identity authentication. Businesses and government agencies cannot order your LexisNexis Full File Disclosure, but they are entitled, with legitimate business purposes, to order some of the reports that comprise your LexisNexis Full File Disclosure for the business-related activities they conduct.
To order your Full File Disclosure, read the instructions and download the forms on their website. The form must be mailed with the required identity authentication documents. Once LexisNexis has verified your identity, all information will be mailed to the address you provide on the request form.