Home > Credit Score > How Private Is Your Credit Score?

Comments 0 Comments

Many of us may be oversharing on social media, but there are some things most people prefer to keep private;  you don’t see too many salaries posted, nor do you see credit scores.

Are your credit scores all that private though? Yes… and no.

A federal law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, places limits on who can receive your credit information, and some state laws include other restrictions. But as long as those guidelines are followed, your permission isn’t required before accessing your report or scores. Here are some of the people who can — and can’t — get your credit scores.

Who Sees Your Score


You probably already know that a lender may get a credit score in order to evaluate your application for a loan. But did you know lenders may review credit scores periodically to see how your account is performing and perhaps to help them decide whether a credit line increase or decrease is in order?

In addition, some small-business lenders will order scores that take into account the owner’s personal credit scores as well as business credit scores.

Cellphone and Utility Companies

Whether you are getting a traditional landline (yes, some of us still have those!), a cellphone or utility service, a credit score may be used to evaluate your application, including to help determine whether you’ll be required to put up a deposit. After you get the service, credit scores may be obtained periodically to monitor your account.


Many landlords check credit before renting to a tenant. Depending on which service they use to do that, they may get a score with the credit report they order. A word of caution: If you don’t wind up renting from them — or even if you do — you may want to confirm your data is being securely stored or has been destroyed.  You could be dealing with a landlord who has just a few properties and isn’t set up to protect your credit information they way he or she should.

Insurance Companies

Most auto insurance companies, and some offering homeowner insurance, will use credit-based insurance scores to help determine what you will pay for insurance. If your credit score is low, you may wind up paying a much higher premium than someone whose score is high.

Collection Agencies

If you fell behind on a debt, a collection agency may review your credit scores and/or your credit reports. “Credit scores are one of the tools collectors use to help prioritize collection accounts,” says Susan Henson, vice president, public relations for Experian. In fact, a collection agency could be looking at your credit before you even realized you have a debt placed for collection with them.


There are some other surprising circumstances when credit scores may be used. For example, if you want to become a conservator to a minor child in Livingston County, Mich., you may be required to get a surety bond, which may require a credit check. Any request to use your credit report or score that doesn’t involve insurance or credit (a term that’s fairly broad since it includes things like cellphone service) generally requires your written permission.

Who Doesn’t See Your Credit Score

There are at least a couple of common situations where people think credit scores may be used, but aren’t.

Your Boss

Employers get credit reports — not credit scores — though it appears to be a matter of convention rather than law in most cases. In 10 states, even the use of credit reports by employers is prohibited or restricted. Those states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Employers, by the way, are required to get your written permission before reviewing your credit report.

Your Partner or Ex

Your ex-spouse or ex-roommate should not be peeking at your credit reports or scores, unless he or she has your written permission to do so. (Even then, it’s not likely they would find a company willing to provide it to them.) Even your spouse doesn’t have a legal right to review your credit report or scores unless you say it’s OK.

But a word of caution is in order here; if they know enough about you to answer the security questions required to get a credit score, and they didn’t mind breaking the law, they could try. That’s why monitoring your credit reports and scores to look for unusual activity or inquiries from companies you don’t recognize is a good idea.

Who’s Looking At Your Credit?

The best way to find out who has obtained your credit data is by getting your credit reports. If you haven’t already done so, you can get your free credit reports once a year, then monitor your credit score for free using a tool like Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card. If someone accesses your credit data, an inquiry will be listed on the credit report that was used to supply that report or score.

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team