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Are Credit Bureaus Allowed to Release Credit Info to Anyone who Requests It?

An E-mail message has been circulating for a couple of years now, designed to make you think that the credit bureaus will be able to give out your information to anyone who requests it, starting July 1st. The text of the email hoax starts like this:

Personal information goes public.

Starting July 1, 2003, the four major credit bureaus in the U.S. (Equifax, etc.) will be allowed to release credit info, mailing addresses, phone numbers, etc., to ANYONE who requests it. If you do not want to be included, you should call a toll-free number, 1-888-567-8688.

To spread the hoax, the e-mail asks you to "pass this message to all in your address book, friends and family." That's how you got it.

The Email is False and Misleading

You've had the ability to opt out from pre-approved credit offers for a long time (by calling 1 888 567-8688.) Opting out is helpful in the prevention of identity theft because it reduces the number of pre-approved offers of credit that find their way to your mail box, thus reducing the risk that the junk mail will find its way into the hands of an identity thief.

The Opt Out phone number has nothing to do with who can see your credit report. Companies that request your credit report still must have a legal permissible purpose under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Equifax, Experian (formerly TRW), and Trans Union, as well as the FTC and the Consumer Data Industry Association [PDF] all have press releases to debunk the bogus email.

Who Was Allowed to See My Credit Report Recently?

You can find out. Here's where you can see who has been allowed to see your credit report recently. The information is in the Inquiries section of your 3-bureau merged credit report from Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union.

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