Most people have heard of a consumer reporting agency (CRA), but what is a specialty consumer reporting agency?  The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) defines a “consumer report” as any communication of information by a consumer reporting agency “bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the consumer’s eligibility for: (A) credit or insurance to be used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes; (B) employment purposes; or (C) any other purpose authorized under section §1681b of this title.”  15 U.S.C. § 1681A(d)(1).

Trans Union, Equifax and Experian aren’t the only companies that sell consumer reports.  While the FCRA recognizes the “Big 3” Nationwide CRAs, the FCRA also defines Specialty CRAs as companies who maintain information regarding consumers’ medical history, residential or tenant history, check writing history, employment history or insurance history.  15 U.S.C. § 1681A(x).  Like a traditional credit report, the information contained in tenant or medical history bears on a consumer’s credit worthiness.  By definition, Nationwide Specialty CRAs collect consumer information on a nationwide basis, just like Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.

Nationwide Specialty CRAs gather consumer information and sell the information in consumer reports to creditors, landlords, insurance companies and employers.  For example, when a consumer applies for housing, the landlord may purchase a consumer report from a Specialty CRA.  The report will include rental history, including evictions.  Using the report, the landlord may decide not to rent to the consumer, or may elect to charge a higher deposit, especially if the report includes inaccurate information.

Another similarity between the Nationwide CRAs and Nationwide CRAs is consumers have the right to request one free credit report every twelve (12) months.  While there is not a central source for consumers to order a report from each of the Nationwide CRAs, consumers may order their free credit reports directly from each Nationwide Specialty CRA.  The FCRA requires Nationwide Specialty CRAs to have a toll-free number so consumers can order free credit report once every twelve (12) months.  

Consumers should request their free credit reports annually from the Nationwide Specialty CRAs.  Errors on credit reports can keep consumers from getting credit, housing, jobs or insurance.   Click HERE to see a list of consumer reporting agencies, including Nationwide CRAS, and order your free credit reports.