You’ve got someone moving into one of your spare bedrooms. You’re hiring a new housekeeper or nanny. You’re renting out your house. You’re dating someone and you’re curious about his or her debt and credit management skills. Or, maybe your spouse passed away and you need to see what’s on their credit report. There are many reasons why you’d be curious to see what’s on someone else’s credit reports that have nothing to do with lending them money.
There are dozens of websites where you can buy or claim YOUR credit reports but getting someone else’s credit report isn’t quite as easy. The only way you can legally pull someone else’s credit report is if you have what’s referred to as Permissible Purpose. Permissible Purpose is a term straight from the Fair Credit Reporting Act and it defines the conditions under which a credit reporting agency may furnish a credit report. And, as you’ve probably already figured out, getting your girlfriend’s credit report simply because she’s your new girlfriend isn’t on the list.
There is, however, more than one way to skin a cat and if you’re diligent and creative then getting your hands on someone else’s credit report might not be impossible. You can certainly ask that your prospective tenant provide you with a credit report, which they can get at any number of websites. Yu can also buy their credit report from one of the many tenant screening companies but you will need to have their permission and cooperation.
You can also proxy order their credit report from any of the credit bureau’s websites. Proxy ordering is when you are entering the other consumer’s personal information as if you were them. You’re still going to need their permission and cooperation because you’ll have to “authenticate” their identity, which means they’ll have to answer a few questions that only they know the answers to. These questions come directly from their credit report, so it’ll be something along the lines of “Your credit report shows a mortgage loan opened in 2004, who is the lender?” I’ve done this before and it’s very efficient, as long as you’ve got a cooperative consumer.
If you need a credit report of a deceased spouse, then you’re going to have to go directly to the credit bureaus to get it. According to Rod Griffin, Director of Public Education at Experian, “You can request a copy of your deceased spouse’s credit history by mailing a letter stating you are the deceased’s spouse and that you are requesting a copy of his or her credit report.” You will need to provide the following documentation:
For the deceased:
- Name (First, Middle, Last, Generation (Jr., Sr.))
- Mailing address at time of death
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Previous addresses for the prior two years
- Copy of the death certificate
For the living spouse:
- Your name (First, Middle, Last, Generation (Jr., Sr.))
- Address the report should be mailed to
- Copy of documentation verifying you are the spouse
If you are not the spouse but are the executor of the estate you will
need to send a copy of legal documentation naming you as the executor
(signed and sealed from the court).
Mail your request to:
PO Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
Clearly, this is going to be much less prevalent than requesting a credit report for a living spouse or a roommate, but I did get several questions this past year from consumers wanting to know how to get their deceased spouse’s credit reports. But, it wasn’t nearly as common as people wanting help getting their boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé’s credit reports. That took the cake… by a long shot.
John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. The opinions expressed in his articles are his and not of Mint.com or Intuit. Follow John on Twitter