Specialty consumer reporting agencies: the ‘other’ credit bureaus

If you have ever applied for credit, you are probably familiar with the Equifax, Experian and Trans Union consumer reporting agencies. Based upon creditworthiness and the likelihood of repayment, creditors will determine whether to extend you credit.

What many consumers do not realize is that “other” consumer reports exist on them. Known as specialty consumer reports, these files contain user specific information detailed toward a particular industry.

Specialty consumer reports are designed to meet the needs of the reporting agencies’ clientele. They are used by insurance companies, landlords, banks, etc., to predict how likely you are to get into a car accident, damage your apartment, or bounce a check.

The most widely used specialty consumer reports relate to:

Check-writing history – bounced checks, fraud and accounts closed due to insufficient funds.

Tenant history – rental history, including relevant information obtained from court records and previous landlords.

Insurance claims history – history on your past claims.

Medical history – routine health information and history of medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma or depression.

Prescription history – prescription drugs used and dosages/refill history.

Employment background – screening for criminal history, marital status, prior addresses, driving record, and/or credit history.

While specialty consumer reports do not exist for every consumer at every agency, it is to your advantage to learn what has been reported and to whom. It is equally important to understand your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act as the information contained within a specialty consumer report may be used to deny employment, a bank account, apartment rental, health, life or auto insurance.

If you are denied based upon information contained within a specialty consumer report, be sure to obtain the required notice of adverse action. Thereafter, request a copy of the offending specialty consumer report and dispute any information deemed inaccurate, obsolete or fraudulent.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates the specialty consumer reporting industry. In conjunction with other legislation, consumers have important rights:

•The right to one free report every year or upon notice of adverse action. Upon request, specialty consumer reporting agencies must provide a free copy of your report once per year or upon denial based upon information in the report.

•The right to dispute inaccurate or obsolete information. The specialty consumer reporting agency must investigate your dispute and correct or remove inaccurate or outdated records.

•The right to be advised of a background check. An employer who plans to conduct a background check must notify you and get your permission.

•In an effort to avoid unnecessary embarrassment, consumers should order a specialty consumer report prior to applying for employment, a bank account, apartment rental, health, life, or auto insurance.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse recommends requesting specialty consumer reports under the following circumstances:

•When shopping for homeowner’s or automobile insurance. Order a copy of your CLUE (comprehensive loss underwriting exchange) or A-Plus claims report. If you filed claims on existing policies, review the report for accuracy.

•If someone has fraudulently accessed your bank account. Order a copy of your Chexsystems report.

•When applying for employment. Find out the name of the screening company and order a copy of your report prior to authorizing release to a third-party.

•If you are an identity theft victim. Order all credit and specialty consumer reports. Place a fraud alert and dispute all information related to the identity theft.

•If you plan to rent a home. Order your tenant history report.

•When applying for private health, life, long-term care, or disability insurance. Order your MIB report from the Medical Information Bureau.

Unlike the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and Trans Union, there is no one-stop shop for obtaining your specialty consumer reports. An individual request must be submitted to each agency.

To order your check writing history report, contact Chexsystems at (800) 428-9623; Shared Check Authorization Network at (800) 262-7771; and Telecheck at (800) 366-2425.

To order your tenant history report, contact ChoicePoint at (877) 448-5732 and SafeRent at (888) 333-2413.

To order your insurance claims history report, contact ChoicePoint at (866) 312-8076 and A-Plus Reports at (800) 709-8842.

To order your medical history report, contact Medical Information Bureau at (866) 692-6901.

To order your prescription history report, contact MedPoint at (888) 206-0335 and IntelliScript at (877) 211-4816.

To order your employment background screening report, contact ChoicePoint at (866) 312-8075.

To order your ChoicePoint Full File Disclosure, visit www.choicetrust.com

For more information on a wide range of consumer protection topics, including background checks, medical records and other privacy issues, please visit The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse at www.privacyrights.org.


William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.