Checking Your Credit Reports

(WSVN) - When it came time to renew his car insurance, a South Florida man noticed they had dug into his credit reports to help determine how much to charge him for insurance. Can they check your credit report without your permission? Let’s get the answer from Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

You might be too young to know what Mike Sanner is operating.

Voice: “Just wanted to say hi. I haven’t talked to you in awhile.”

It’s a ham radio, one of Mike’s hobbies…

Mike Sanner, irritated at insurance company: “It’s amateur radio, and I talk all over the country; all over the world sometimes.”

Mike is now retired, giving him time to have some fun, and time to pay close attention to his bills.

Mike Sanner: “And recently I got the renewal, and I noticed it went up probably about $50 or $60.”

Mike was going through his car insurance renewal notice when he saw something that surprised him.

Mike Sanner: “I noticed there was a disclaimer in there about using a credit report that may have affected the rate.”

The insurance company wrote that credit information was obtained on Mike’s wife, but neither one had any idea their credit reports were being checked.

Mike Sanner: “So I was not happy, and both of us have good credit. That’s another reason I’m surprised it still went up.”

Next step — a call to his insurance company.

Mike Sanner: “I asked and they said, ‘Oh everybody is doing it, checking credit for consideration of risk to raise premiums.'”

Mike’s reply? He’s a low-risk driver.

Mike Sanner: “No accidents. I’ve got no tickets. I got no bad history.”

Mike kept pushing for a reason. Finally, he was told his rates may have gone up because he had considered buying a new house.

Mike Sanner: “Because we wanted to look for a house, we pulled for pre-approvals on mortgages, and now the insurance company is saying, ‘Oh too many inquires, we’re going to raise your rate.'”

Needless to say, Mike is not happy with his car insurance company.

Mike Sanner: “I’m ready to sell my car, stop the insurance, and then that stops them from accessing my credit report.”

Well Howard, can an insurance company, or any company, check your credit report without your knowledge before determining how much to charge you?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “Some can and some can’t. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, financial institutions, utilities and insurance companies can check your credit report without telling you. Why? Well, many auto insurance companies believe that the lower your credit score, the more likely you are to file a claim, and because of that, legally they can charge you more than somebody with better credit for the same product.”

We contacted several insurance companies and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

The consensus — that credit reports are a good way to match price to risk.

And while insurance companies don’t have to tell you they are checking your credit score, we were told if it’s used to raise your rate, that should be disclosed during the quoting and application process.

If it’s not disclosed, you can file a formal complaint with the state against the insurance company.

Howard Finkelstein: “Every insurance company places a different weight or criteria on things like credit scores or your age. If your insurance company raises your rate shop around or go to an independent agent that works with many companies to get the best rate for you.”

Another hobby Mike has is martial arts. These are some of the sharp weapons he has collected, and one thing he’s about to slice out of his life is his insurance company.

Mike Sanner: “And I’m going to change. I’m going to drop them and go to somebody else.”

That’s the best way to get back at any company — take your business somewhere else.

Also, if you want to know if your car insurance company checked your credit score, call them and ask.

And if you want to know what rights you have under the Fair Credit Reporting Act or you want to file a complaint against your insurance company, the links to both sites are at wsvn.com under this “Help Me Howard” story.

Got a problem you want to retire from your life? Need to insure you get some help? Check with us. We won’t ham it up and we don’t want any credit. We just want renew your peace of mind. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

File A Complaint About Your Car Insurance Company
http://www.floir.com/Office/SearchableTools.aspx

Know Your Rights Under Fair Crediting Reporting Act
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0096-fair-credit-reporting-act.pdf

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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