In April 2012, Panya Dixon, 38, was thrilled about moving into her new home in Lithonia, Georgia. She and her husband, Lynndale, called their homeowner's insurance provider of three years to insure their new house. Finding the rates a little steep, she continued researching and eventually called Allstate.
"Allstate told me that, according to my insurance history, I was not insurable with their company," says Dixon. "I had two claims within the past two years at my previous home, for a burst water pipe and a leaking roof. I was shocked. I didn't realize that a consumer could be penalized and become uninsurable if they filed claims. I thought that's why you have insurance."
Dixon is one of many Americans who have discovered that companies produce reports on them known as specialty consumer reports. Requested by potential employers, landlords, and, in Dixon's case, insurance companies, these reports track specific behaviors not found on credit reports.
Your behavior is being monitored. According to Sonya Smith-Valentine, president and CEO of Financially Fierce L.LC., specialty consumer reports compile information about your medical history or payments; your history as a tenant; check-writing history; employment history; and insurance claims, among many other areas. About 35 companies provide one or more of these reports, which companies use to assess your risk to them should they offer you insurance, a job, or some other service.
You have a right to view your specialty report. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued a bulletin to these agencies, reminding them that they are required to provide consumers easy access to their free annual consumer report. The CFPB says that these companies must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
"Consumers have the right to know what credit reporting companies are saying about them," says Sam Gilford, a spokesman for the CFPB. "If you don't know what's in those files, you can't dispute any inaccuracies." The CFPB encourages consumers who plan to apply for a job, apartment, or other service to order the appropriate report from one or more of the nationwide specialty agencies.
Reports are free of charge. You can request one specialty consumer report from each of the reporting companies at no charge every 12 months. Also, if you were turned down for insurance, employment, a checking account, or rental housing, you are entitled to an additional free report. John Ulzheimer, credit expert at...