Your credit reports can be accessed and seen without your express permission, as agencies can provide your credit report to parties with a vested interest such as landlords and credit card providers. However not everyone has the right to access your credit information and if anyone uses the information in your reports in such a way that it negatively impacts on you, there is a legal obligation to inform you of this.
Thus an insurer may access your report but if they then turn you down for an insurance policy they must inform you which report they obtained the information from which caused them to reach such a decision. An employer can only access your credit report by obtaining your written permission and if the information costs you a job they must inform you of this.
Everyone has the right to request a copy of their credit reports to evaluate the information held on file about them. However consumers are only allowed access to one free credit report per agency per annum. There are exceptions to this rule, and additional reports may be obtained free of charge if someone has informed you that the information held has been used adversely against you, or if information contained is the result of fraud or identity theft. In addition the unemployed who are intending to apply for work within 60 days may obtain a free report as may those on public assistance.
Asking for a copy of your credit report does not give you the right to obtain your credit score and if this information is required it must be applied for and paid for. However this also means that others who access your credit reports are not privy to your credit score either.
If you discover inaccurate information in your credit files you have the right to have it corrected within 30 days. Valid information remains on your report but is subject to legal time frames, thus a bankruptcy can be held on your credit file but only up to ten years, and valid negative information can only be held on your file for seven years.
Your consumer rights are protected under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and there are actually eight federal agencies which can be involved in complaints regarding misuse of your information. In addition to this individual states may have even stricter consumer reporting laws which must be complied with. If your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act are violated then the consumer has the right to sue in state or federal court.