Is it possible for you to pull your parents’ credit report?
Absolutely. And there a number of reasons you should do so on a regular basis. Consumer credit reports and credit scores can provide valuable insight into an individual’s financial life. It can alert you to potential problems and help you act fast if something goes wrong.
Before you attempt to review a credit file, however, you should know the rules.
In most cases, you’ll need permission from your parents before pulling personal data. The FCRA – Fair Credit Reporting Act – allows an individual to access a credit report if they have the appropriate authorization. A power of attorney is considered approval.
Once you have authority, you can get the reports directly from either the credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, or in some cases, banks or credit cards may have a service that allows you to look for free. You will need a legal name, home address, Social Security number, and date of birth to access. In addition, many places will use questions as a hindrance from allowing access to people without proper authority. Questions can range from “What is the name of the bank you had your car loan in 2010,” to “What is your current payment of your home mortgage at X Bank.” Be sure to have a full understanding of your parents’ financial life before you begin, or have them close by to answer questions.
Elderly are often the target for fraud. Zero in on loans and lines of credit that your mom and dad have never signed for. Also look for fluctuating balances or unusually high balances on legitimate accounts.
Thieves often look for unsuspecting elderly with healthy credit lives, but it often stretches beyond unsavory souls. Sometimes people close to your parents can stretch the relationship too far when it comes to money situations. They can convince the elderly to co-sign loans or become joint users of an account. While you can’t control your parents’ actions, finding out problems early can help you point out what has happened, educate your parents, and reverse the problem before it becomes a problem. It can also be used as an education to help prevent future problems.
If you worry your parents are applying for credit cards mailed to their home or are making irrational charges because they suffer from dementia, check the reports regularly for evidence of that as well.
One final thought: Realize credit reports are just one moment in time. It can take weeks, even months for some of the data to change. Credit reports and scores aren’t updated overnight and often contain errors. Think of this as a window of opportunity. Look at your parents’ credit reports on a regular basis, and you’ll begin to see a picture of their financial lives. It gives you the opportunity to jump in where a potential problem may arise, and make changes before the problems become too large. Let the report open the conversation, and be a way to ensure their safety throughout the year.