Fact Sheet 6b:
"Other" Consumer Reports:
What You Should Know about "Specialty" Reports
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Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
- Your Right to Free Annual Reports from Specialty Consumer Reporting Agencies
- Home and Auto Insurance Claims Reports
- Medical and Prescription Drug History Reports
- Residential and Tenant Reports
- Banking and Check Writing History Reports
- Employment Background Screening Reports
- LexisNexis Full File Disclosure
- When to Order a Specialty Report
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) covers reports about your overall financial health. Most consumers are familiar with credit reports from the three national credit reporting agencies (commonly called "credit bureaus"--Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). Credit reports allow a lender to see whether you pay your bills on time, have filed for bankruptcy, or have an outstanding court judgment or collection action against you. However, despite its name, the FCRA covers a lot more than simply credit reports. Credit reports are just one of a broader category of consumer reports covered by the FCRA.
Nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies compile reports about much more than just your credit history. These reports can cover such things as your:
- Medical records or payments
- Residential or tenant history
- Check writing history
- Employment history and
- Insurance claims
The FCRA gives consumers the right to a free report from a "nationwide specialty consumer reporting agency" once every 12 months. There is no centralized source for obtaining free specialty reports. Requests must be made directly to each specialty reporting agency.
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 also:
- 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.
This guide includes information we have gathered about access to 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.
What information goes into a “specialty” report?
Specialty consumer reporting agencies operate much like the 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.
Should I try to order all of the specialty reports listed here?
Probably not. Ordering all of your reports will be time-consuming. Even though they are free, there is probably no need to expend the time and effort to get every report available to you.
In many cases, the specialty reporting agency will not have a file on you. 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 will not have a file on you unless a current or past employer has contracted with them. National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange (NCTUE) will not have a file on you if your utility service provider is not a member of NCTUE.
We offer suggestions on when you might want to obtain a copy of your specialty report below under "When to Order a Specialty Report".
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 under the FCRA 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 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.
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 is likely to 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.
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 at https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/fact_act_claims_bundle/landing.jsp.
To request a free Verisk A-Plus loss-history report, call their Consumer Report Request Line at 800-627-3487 or visit http://www.verisk.com/underwriting/a-plus-underwriting-verisk-insurance-solutions.html.
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.
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.
toll-free number for disclosure is (866) 692-6901 (TTY (866) 346-3642 for
hearing impaired) For more on free reports from MIB, see http://www.mib.com/request_your_record.html.
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.
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 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.
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 Web site includes information about the product as well as additional contact information. http://www.rxhistories.com/RequestAReport/
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.
- RealPage LeasingDesk resident screening includes a rental payment history database, criminal background and rental credit checks. Obtain your report by calling (866)-934-1124 or go to http://www.realpage.com/consumer-support/.
- LexisNexis Screening Solutions Resident History Report contains information related to your tenant history as well as other information regarding your background. Call (877) 448-5732 or visit https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/index.jsp to obtain a copy of your report.
- Experian RentBureau receives rental payment data from its national network of property management companies. This data is accessed by resident screening companies for use during the application process for prospective residents. Consumers may order their Rental History Report by using the form at http://www.experian.com/assets/rentbureau/brochures/request_form.pdf or by calling (877) 704-4519.
- CoreLogic Safe Rent may have criminal and/or landlord-tenant records as well as rental performance history. Consumers may obtain a copy of their consumer file by calling (800) 815-8664.
- Tenant Data provides the rental industry with a variety of reports including rental performance history, bad check reports, and criminal history reports. Consumers may order their free report by completing the form at http://www.tenantdata.com/downloads/AuthorizationforFileDisclos_new.pdf or by calling (800) 228-1837.
- Contemporary Information Corp. (CIC) provides property management software that provides landlords with the ability to screen applicants and apply their information to easy to use leasing forms. Consumers may order their free report by filling out the online form at http://www.cicreports.com/consumer-disputes/ or by calling (800) 288-4757 and selecting Option 5.
The following companies report 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 can read more about how ChexSystems tracks your banking history at http://money.cnn.com/2012/08/16/pf/bank-account-history/index.html. You may call (800) 428-9623 or visit www.consumerdebit.com/consumerinfo/us/en/chexsystems/report/index.htm 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 http://www.firstdata.com/telecheck/telecheck-file-report.html 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 https://www.askcertegy.com/FACT.jsp to obtain your free report. In August 2013, Certegy agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2013/08/certegy.shtm
- 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 to obtain your free report. Visit http://www.earlywarning.com/consumer-information.html for more information.
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 may 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. This appears to us to be a significant loophole in the law.
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.
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 background screener 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.
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.
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. For a more complete description of the
information included see https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/access_your_personal_information_faq.jsp
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 at https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/access_your_personal_information.jsp The form must be mailed with the required identity authentication docments. Once LexisNexis has verified your identity, all information will be mailed to the address you provide on the request form.
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.
though it’s free, in most instances, 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. Remember, insurers, landlords,
employers, and banks have permissible purposes for accessing your credit
report. Information in your specialty report may overlap information in your
credit report. It is important to correct inaccuracies no matter where they
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 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 andcheck 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.
Consumer Action offers additional suggestions on when to order specialty reports.
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Publications
- Credit Reporting Basics: How Private Is My Credit Report?
- Employment Background Checks: A Jobseeker's Guide
- Employment Background Checks in California: New Focus on Accuracy
- CLUE and You: How Insurers Size You Up
Consumer Finance Protection Board (CFPB) Publications
- List of consumer reporting companies (2015 edition)
- CFPB Bulletin 2012-09, The FCRA’s “streamlined process” requirement for consumers to obtain free annual reports from nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies.
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