Are Criminal Records on Credit Reports?

police officerA credit report contains information on loans, credit card accounts, credit inquiries, public records, and collections. Public records contain civil public records such as bankruptcies, tax liens, foreclosures, and judgments. These reflect non-payment of credit obligations.  This information is compiled by the three U.S. credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. All of this information is related to how you have paid your credit obligations currently and in the past.

Criminal records

Criminal records are not on your consumer credit report. They can be included in background checks, which are usually for employment purposes.  Background checks can also be conducted by current employers – not just potential employers. Not every background check includes a criminal record; it depends upon the employer and the position. For example, a job working with children, elderly, or disabled may require a criminal record check. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the employer must have the consumer’s written authorization to conduct a background check. This document has to be separate from the employment application.

FCRA

The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides for the accuracy, fairness and privacy of information of files at consumer reporting agencies.  A consumer reporting agency is any person who assembles or evaluates and sells consumer information to third parties through interstate commerce. The consumer information can be credit or other information such as employment background checks (including criminal records), credit reports, check writing history, insurance claims, medical records, and apartment rental information.

If you have been turned down for a job based upon your background check, you are entitled to a free copy of your report per the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  This applies only if the background check was conducted by a consumer reporting agency. If the employer conducts the investigation on their own and contacts courthouses, they are not subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Since credit reports reflect your payment history, criminal records are not a part of it.  Criminal records are verified by some employers.

JRU on 60 Mins SetCredit Reporting Expert, 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.  Follow him on Twitter here.

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