- Jared Hartman, Esq.
- Posted on October 30th, 2013
There are two ways a credit inquiry can be conducted on a consumer’s credit reports: a hard inquiry and a soft inquiry. A soft inquiry merely obtains the consumer’s person ID information, such as name and address. A hard inquiry allows the requester to obtain information more in depth towards the consumer’s credit (such as who else is conducting inquiries, how much debt you have, when you have defaulted on past credit, etc.). A soft inquiry will not appear as an inquiry on your credit report and therefore will not impact your credit score. However a hard inquiry does appear on your credit report and too many of them in a short period of time can and will lower your credit score, because it looks as if you are applying for too many lines of credit contemporaneously. It is strictly within the decision of the entity conducting the inquiry as to whether they will conduct a hard or soft inquiry, but if the entity needs to determine and evaluate your creditworthiness then the inquiry will most likely be a hard inquiry.
Both the Federal and State Fair Credit Reporting laws require one conducting a credit inquiry to have a “permissible purpose” in conducting the inquiry, and both sets of laws establish what constitutes a permissible purpose. See, for example, Calif. Civil Code 1788.11 and 15 U.S.C. 1681b. The requesting entity does not need your permission to conduct the inquiry so long as they identify to the credit reporting agency that they have such a permissible purpose; yet most of them will ask for your approval just to cover themselves in case a dispute arises over their purpose for the inquiry. If the entity does not have such a permissible purpose, then they need your express permission to conduct the inquiry under both sets of laws. However, if the entity conducting the inquiry lies to the credit reporting agency about the true purpose of the inquiry (for instance, telling the credit reporting agency they have a permissible purpose but then using the information for a non-permissible purpose), then you can and should file a lawsuit for conducting the inquiry under “false pretenses”.
If the improper inquiry has caused you actual damages, such as being denied a job, line of credit, or purchase money home loan, then you can recover those damages as compensation. If you do not have such actual damages, then you can still recover statutory damages as specified in the law. Either way, attorneys’ fees and costs of litigation are guaranteed to be paid by the party found to have violated the law, which means there is NO COST TO YOU for filing such a lawsuit.
If you have any concerns over inquiries being conducted on your credit reports, then you should contact us immediately to discuss the circumstances in detail during a free and confidential consultation.