The three major credit bureaus maintain your credit information, and companies can review it under certain circumstances. You may not have realized that you can prevent many companies from reviewing your credit information by withholding permission or preventing the credit bureaus from giving it out for certain purposes. If you know your rights, you can protect yourself and keep your credit information from being casually reviewed and used for marketing or other unwanted purposes.
Don't give any information that could be used to pull your credit report when you are shopping for big-ticket items. If you have to give it, make it very clear that you don't want the company to review your credit information. For example, if you are shopping for a car, you may need to give your driver's license information to take a test drive. Dealerships are not supposed to pull your credit information without your permission, but some might do so anyway. Let them know up front that you do not want this done.
Carefully read the fine print before signing a sales contract. If you are making a purchase for which you will pay cash or obtain your own financing, make sure you are not giving the merchant permission to pull your credit information anyway.
Put a freeze on your credit report with all three of the major credit bureaus. They may require you to pay a small fee unless you have been a victim of fraud or identity theft. Once your credit is frozen, a company won't be able to access it even if you fill out and sign an application. The only way the creditor or lender will be able to get access is if you temporarily unfreeze it.
Opt out of prescreen credit offers. Experian, Innovis, Equifax and TransUnion provide certain information to companies who use it to send you preapproved credit offers and other solicitation material. You can prevent them from getting your credit information by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT or visiting the Opt Out Prescreen website and filling out the online form.
If you believe that a company reviewed your credit information without your permission, you can get a free copy of your credit report to see if they show up as an inquiry. TransUnion, Experian and Equifax are all required to give you a free copy of your report each year if you request it. Be sure to make your request through their official websites.
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