Credit reports are a really personal thing. Think about it: Not only does it document every little credit mistake you made, dollar you borrowed or account you opened in the last several years, it also contains a lot of sensitive information, like your address and Social Security number. That’s a big reason why the credit reporting agencies must verify your identity when you request your free annual credit report. It’s your data, and other individuals aren’t legally allowed to access it.
“If you falsely use another person’s identification to request their report, you could be committing fraud, particularly if you do not have their permission,” said Rod Griffin, Experian’s director of public education, in an email to Credit.com.
While your spouse or parents probably know your Social Security number and could answer the security questions, there are few circumstances under which it’s OK for them to look at your credit reports.
For example, if a parent has concerns about someone stealing their child’s identity and that child is a minor, the parent can request the child’s credit report. Griffin said such requests must be made directly to the major credit reporting agencies. Unless an account has been opened in that child’s name (e.g. a fraudulent account), a credit report may not exist. Once you’re an adult, credit reports are yours alone to request, which you can do for free once each year through AnnualCreditReport.com. In addition, you can get a free credit score every 30 days on Credit.com, as part of your regular credit-checkup routine. (Here’s a sample credit report with tips on how to read yours and actually understand it.)
“If the person is an adult they are responsible for requesting their own credit history and Experian cannot legally provide it to the parent unless that parent has legal authorization, such as power of attorney, to request the report on behalf of the other adult,” Griffin said. “While in our eyes they will always be our children, that isn’t true under the law.”
Of course, someone else can request your credit report for business purposes, but a potential employers’ background check requires your permission. As for something like requesting your husband’s credit report to check on his financial health — yeah, that’s illegal.
More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:
- The Credit.com Credit Reports Learning Center
- How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?
- What’s a Bad Credit Score?