Run a Comprehensive Background Check on Yourself
February 12th, 2019
Do you know who’s collecting information on you? If you’ve applied for a job, apartment or insurance, chances are you’ve had a background check run on you. These reports can include information on your income, loan payments, debts, and on and on, and consumer reporting companies can even include a “risk score” for you.
And while you’re likely familiar with a credit agency like Equifax, you’re probably not aware of the breadth of companies collecting your personal information.
As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s 2019 report indicates, any number of financial institutions can request your “report,” including:
- Lenders (including those that offer credit cards, home, payday, auto including auto leasing and student loans)
- Employers, volunteer organizations, and government agencies to determine eligibility for government assistance (employment and background screening)
- Landlords and residential real estate management companies (tenant screening)
- Banks, credit unions, payment processors and retail stores that accept personal checks (check screening)
- Companies that market and sell products and services specifically to lower-income consumers and subprime credit applicants, such as short-term lending and rent-to-own businesses among others
- Debt buyers and collectors
- Insurance companies (health, life, property insurance screening)
- Communications and utility companies (e.g., mobile phone; pay TV, electric, gas, water)
- Retail stores for product return fraud and abuse screening as well as retail stores that offer financing such as appliance and rent-to-own businesses, among others
- Gaming casinos that extend credit to consumers and/or accept personal checks
Because of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you can get copies of these reports yourself from the various consumer reporting agencies if you request one—which is important if you need to correct any inaccuracies they include.
You can typically request each one for a “reasonable” fee every 12 months, and you’re entitled to a free copy “after an adverse action is taken against you based on information in your report from that company and under other specific circumstances,” per the CFPB. Requesting a copy won’t hurt your credit score.
The CFPB says that most agencies will give you a copy of your report for free (this article will indicate the price for each), and that because of that, you may not necessarily need to pay for a credit monitoring service if you’re regularly updated. That said, it’s a lot of legwork, and a credit monitoring service might make sense for convenience’s sake.
Here are the companies that report on various consumer sectors. Note: Not every company will have a report on you, it depends what information has been reported to them.
Most people are familiar with the three main credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Transunion. Your credit report includes information on your credit card and loan payment history, how much credit is available to you, information from debt collectors and inquiries from other creditors, among other info.
You can access any three of the reports on AnnualCreditReport.com. Again, you can request one from each agency for free every 12 months.
You’ll want to check these reports every year—ideally, you’ll pull your report from one of the three agencies every four months—and after an identity theft scare.
Employment screening companies verify information like your credit history, salary, education, professional licenses, etc., to employers and potential employers.
“They may also provide criminal arrest and conviction information as well as fingerprint information from state and federal criminal record databases; driving record information; drug and alcohol testing and health screening information; and non-profit and volunteer activity verification,” notes the CFPB.
Typically you’ll need to authorize an employer to conduct a screening. “If possible, when you give your authorization, ask for the name(s) of the employment screening company being used,” the CFPB advises, so that you can check the same reports your employer is getting. They’re likely running the background check from one of these businesses:
- Accurate Background
- American DataBank
- Checkr: Checkr will provide a free report if you request it here
- EmpInfo: EmpInfo will provide a free report if you request one
- First Advantage Corporation: This company will provide a free report every 12 months, and freeze your report if you request it
- General Information Services, Inc.: GIS will provide a free report
- HireRight: Will provide a free report every 12 months if you request one
- Info Cubic: Will provide a free report if you request it
- IntelliCorp: Will provide a free report every 12 months
- OPENonline: This company will provide a free report every 12 months
- PeopleFacts: Will provide a free copy
- Pre-employ.com: Will provide a free copy
- Sterling: Will provide a free copy
- The Work Number: The Work Number is operated by Equifax and will provide one free copy of your report every 12 months
You can ask the management company through which you’re applying for housing for the name of the consumer reporting company it uses to screen applicants.
“A tenant screening report with negative information in it, such as prior housing evictions, could result in a rejected lease application, or it may get approved but with tough conditions inserted into the lease agreement such as requiring you to pay twelve months of rent in advance,” reports the CFPB. The management companies likely use one of the following companies:
- Contemporary Information Corp.: CIC will provide your free report once every 12 months
- CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions: You can request a free copy of your report every 12 months, and request your report be frozen
- Experian RentBureau: You can get a free copy every 12 months
- First Advantage Corporation Resident History Report: You can request a free copy of your report every 12 months, and request your report be frozen
- Real Page, Inc. (LeasingDesk): You can request a free copy of your report every 12 months, and request your report be frozen
- Screening Reports, Inc.: You can request a free report once every 12 months
- Tenant Data Services: You can request a free report once every 12 months
- TransUnion Rental Screening Solutions, Inc. (TransUnion SmartMove): This company will provide a free report if you provide it
Bank and Check Screening
Banks and credit unions may use a bank/check screening to decide whether or not to allow a customer to open checking account.
“For example, you may have negative information in your report if you had a checking account before and you have an unpaid negative balance on that account,” writes the CFPB.
If you’ve had your identity stolen, you’ll want to correct this information so you can open a bank account. Here are agencies the bank might pull a report from:
- Certegy Check Services: The company will provide a free report every 12 months
- ChexSystems: CS will provide a free report every 12 months and freeze your report if you request it
- CrossCheck, Inc.: The company will provide a free report every 12 months
- Early Warning Services: Will provide you with a free report every 12 months
- Global Payments Check Services, Inc.: The company will provide a free report every 12 months
- TeleCheck Services: The company will provide a free report every 12 months
“Fact-check your medical specialty report before or when applying for private life, health, critical illness, long-term care or disability income insurance,” writes the CFPB.
- MIB, Inc.: You can access a free report once every 12 months
- Milliman IntelliScript
The full report offers other categories, such as low-income and subprime reporting agencies. You can read it here.
This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.