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Question: 
I've been talking with some co-workers in the Loss Prevention community regarding the use of a consumer report. I've been told by some people that it can be a very useful tool if you're trying to track down someone who owes your company money. They've also said that it's OK to use a consumer report without a customer's consent if the report is being used exclusively for customer who owes your institution a debt. Others have told me that under no circumstances should a consumer report be pulled without prior concent from the customer. What is the right answer? Are there good alternatives to using a consumer report?
Answer: 

Actually the FCRA doesn't require that the bank have a written authorization. Although, "written" is specifically mentioned for employment purposes. Without it be in writing somewhere, it can difficult to prove that you had any authorization.

604(a)(3)(A) allows the credit bureau to release information to someone who, "intends to use the information in connection with a credit transaction involving the consumer on whom the information is to be furnished and involving the extension of credit to, or review or collection of an account of, the consumer; or...

(F) otherwise has a legitimate business need for the information

(i) in connection with a business transaction that is initiated by the consumer;"

Many interpret this as an allowance to access credit reports as was indicated initially.The loan side of the bank can easily justify accessing a credit report after a loan is made. The application forms in general use provide an authorization. If yours doesn't, it (or something similar) should.On the deposit side, this may not be the case, such as when dealing with overdrafts. See if your deposit agreement allows for credit checks. Many check card forms do allow for this now, so you may have an authorization there. It is worth looking into.

First published on BankersOnline.com 12/06/10

First published on 12/06/2010

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