Liz Weston: Can my brother or anyone get a copy of my credit report?

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Dear Liz: I recently obtained copies of my credit reports from all three major credit bureaus and discovered my brother’s home address listed in the personal information section.

I am extremely worried about how and why this happened since I never lived with my brother. This brother is the executor of our father’s estate, and the address list was dated just prior to the distribution of that estate. What possible reason could my brother have for researching my credit history?

I have no communication with him due to an ongoing dispute. He ignores all requests or inquiries. After discovering this, I asked the bureaus to remove the address and put security freezes on all three credit reports, which I probably should have done sooner.

Answer: Your brother’s address would not appear on your credit reports in the unlikely event that he checked your credit. It might show up there if he committed identity theft using your information, but if nothing else was – you didn’t spot a credit account or loan you didn’t recognize, for example – then most likely the error was made by a creditor or other company reporting information to the credit bureaus.

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act limits who can access your credit reports. Only companies with a legitimate need to know information can do this, and often your permission is required. You can check who has accessed your credit in the past two years in the “inquiries” section of your credit reports.

You may never find out exactly how your brother’s address ended up on your file, but you took the right steps by disputing the error and freezing your credit reports.

For readers unfamiliar with credit reports: You can access your reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. But be careful; many sites want to sell you your reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If you are asked for a credit card number, you are on the wrong site.

When you receive your reports, look for accounts that aren’t yours and any other suspicious activity. Consider freezing your credit reports at each office to prevent someone from opening new accounts in your name. You can unfreeze the freeze whenever you need credit, also for free.

Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner, is a personal finance columnist for Nerd Wallet. Questions can be sent to him at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “contact” form at asklizweston.com.


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