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Seen At 11: Consumer Reporting Agencies Can Legally Obtain Your Personal Info

And There's Really Nothing The Consumer Can Do But Make Good Decisions

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — We know how important a credit report can be. It affects everything from getting a loan, a job, even a date.

Now, there’s a new kind of report, so detailed, it reveals your most private information — from your driving record to your prescription drug use — and it’s all perfectly legal, CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson reported Tuesday.

Who hasn’t bounced a check, gotten a speeding ticket or taken a prescription drug? But would you want your boss, your bank, your landlord or strangers to know these personal details?

“I wouldn’t like it. I think it’s too much,” one person said.

“Everyone wants to know everything about everyone’s life and there should be some privacy,” another said.

“It’s just not necessary to dig up someone’s history,” another added.

But that’s exactly what new consumer reporting agencies are doing — getting paid to dig up dirt on people and more than just your credit history.

“It’s too much. It’s definitely too much,” one person said.

So how do they do it? They comb through public records everywhere — from homeowner and auto insurance claims to employment records, divorce proceedings, and mortgage and tenant reports — all to find information on you.

“I find that absolutely crazy,” consumer Lauren Kantor said.

These consumer reporting agencies can even get their hands on your private medical history that’s supposed to be protected. Health information, for example, you may have once reported on an application for life or disability insurance.

“I don’t think most people realize there’s so many different agencies and data collection services out there right now.  And most of the time they don’t actually find out about it until something negative happens,” said Kim Gough of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Whether you’re looking for a job, applying for a loan, or shopping for car insurance, more and more companies are paying for these detailed reports on you.

Like many consumers, Kantor said she’s always worked hard to maintain excellent credit and regularly checked her report. She was shocked to find out there was something else out there.

“I had no idea,” Kantor said. “I should really know what kind of information is out there about me and if there are mistakes.”

The organization that represents these consumer reporting agencies insists it is for the consumers’ benefit, as well as the businesses that hire them.

“The data in these databases helps us as small business owners to manage risk and make good decisions and, ultimately, this is really the key, opening the door for opportunity for consumers to get what they deserve because of their hard work, because of their good decisions,” said Stuart Pratt of the Consumer Data Trade Association.

Even though what these consumer reporting agencies do is legal, the Federal Trade Commission sued several recently for making it difficult for consumers to pull their own reports.

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