(WXYZ) - Think you're credit and finance savvy? Listen up!
Investigations reveal even the savviest consumers may have no idea reporting agencies might be keeping tabs on things like: if you pay your utility bills, the prescription drugs you purchase, if you've ever had a problem with your landlord, and medical conditions you've listed on insurance applications... and it's legal!.
Millions of people could have records with hundreds of nationwide consumer reporting agencies---which get information from court files, banks, even companies you have an account with.
Kim Gough of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse said, "I don't think most people realize there's so many different agencies and data collection services out there right now. Most of the time they don't actually find out about it until something negative happens," Gough said.
Something negative means you may be turned down for bank accounts, insurance, jobs, apartments, even cable TV.
But federal law says you have the right to request annual reports from these agencies, just like you do with the "big three" credit bureaus.
"Run a report on yourself, make sure that it's accurate and if its not accurate, then take the steps necessary to correct the information that's not accurate," Gough said.
But investigations reveals sometimes that can be difficult.
The FTC recently sued four nationwide consumer reporting agencies for not properly disclosing people's records and not following proper dispute procedures.
Stuart Pratt of the Consumer Data Trade Association says, "the data in these databases helps us as small business owners to manage risk and make good decisions and ultimately, this is really the key opening the door for opportunity for consumers to get what they deserve because of their hard work, because of their good decisions."
Companies must also give you a copy of your consumer report if the information has been used to deny your application.
If an agency tells you they don't have data on you, don't be alarmed, that may only mean no one reported negative information about you.
Click here for more information from the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau
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