Your credit report contains highly sensitive information, including your social security number, your past addresses, and even the names and addresses of your past employers. Legally, the credit bureaus are only allowed to give this information to certain requestors:
1) A creditor or banker who is considering granting, or has granted you, credit;
2) An employer who is considering you for employment, or a current employer;
3) An insurer who is considering your application for insurance, or reviewing your existing policy;
4) Any government agency that needs to review your financial status for government benefits;
5) Anyone else with a legitimate business need for the information, such as a potential landlord.
In reality, with the exception of employers, who require your written consent to obtain a copy of your credit report, anyone with a “legitimate business need” can gain access to your credit report, including anyone who wants to be in business with you. There are creditors and companies who pull your credit scores for “promotional purposes” – that is, they want to see if they should market their services to you. This is perfectly legal and admissible. These inquiries then become part of your credit report – but they are called “soft inquiries.” “Hard inquiries” are inquiries that come from a lender who is inquiring for the specific purpose of extending you credit. Numerous hard inquiries can have a negative impact on your score, but soft inquiries have no impact whatsoever.
Credit bureaus can also be compelled by court orders or federal jury subpoenas to supply a credit report in certain circumstance. You can also request in writing for them to furnish your report to a third party.
For more information, you can consult the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which is a federal law that restricts who has access to the information in your credit report.