Credit Reports Legally Checked Without Permission

Federal law permits companies to check credit reports under several circumstances, and they don’t always need to have the customer’s consent.

When an Avis Rent A Car customer used a debit card account to hold the required $250 deductible in case of vehicle loss or damage, Avis pulled the customer’s credit report, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The credit report contained a fraud alert (message that you place on your credit report that tells credit issuers there may be fraud involved in the account and to contact you before granting credit in your name). Avis decided not to rent the car to the customer.

Avis spokesman John R. Barrows told Dallas Morning News the company pulls a credit report only when a customer uses a debit card to rent a car. The procedure helps rental companies minimize the potential loss if the customer’s debit card account doesn’t contain sufficient funds to pay for loss or damage to the vehicle.

The possibility that your credit report might be checked is disclosed during the telephone reservation process and/or at the time of rental, said Barrows. Customers who do not want the company to query credit reports can use a valid credit card for the transaction.

Federal law prohibits a business from denying you credit based on a fraud alert on your account. The only time you must give written permission is when your employer, or prospective employer, seeks to check your credit report.

Another issue is the act of a creditor pulling your report can affect your credit score, depending on how the query is classified. A “soft inquiry” is when you check your own credit report or a credit card issuer prescreens you before sending an unsolicited credit card offer. The “soft” type does not hurt your score. A “hard inquiry” occurs when you apply for a loan a lender checks your credit, which can affect your credit score. In the Avis case, the credit check should not be classified as a hard inquiry.

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