The two types of credit pulls are commonly known as hard pulls and soft pulls. A hard pull is any credit pull performed by a company that appears in the "Credit Inquiries" section of your credit report. Soft pulls occur when you pull your own credit or when your score alone is pulled by companies for marketing purposes. These pulls do not appear on your formal credit report, yet may be visible to you when you monitor your credit history online.
The credit bureaus will display hard pulls on your credit reports for differing amounts of time depending on the agency. The time period varies from one year with Equifax to two years with TransUnion. Experian does not specify the amount of time that it allows hard pulls to remain on consumer credit reports.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) specifies that hard pulls can only be made on your credit report by companies that you have authorized to make the inquiry. These are known as "permissible purpose" pulls. Some legitimate reasons for placing an inquiry on your credit report are: to grant you a loan, to consider you for employment or at the request of the courts. Any company that plans to pull your credit report is required to notify you of this intent and most will ask for your signature as proof of written consent.
When a hard pull is levied against your credit report, it will usually cost your credit score a few points. One exception is when you are shopping around for a mortgage or an interest rate. In those cases, the credit bureaus will count all of the inquiries made within a 30 day block of time as one inquiry. Numerous inquiries within a short time period not only cost you points but they can hurt your credit worthiness--even if you have a near perfect credit score. Lenders will view multiple inquiries as "debt shopping." This increases the risk factor involved in extending credit to you.
Any credit inquiry can injure your credit score, even if that injury is slight. If you notice a company has placed an inquiry upon your credit report without your permission, you can write them a letter letting them know that non permissible pulls are a violation of the FCRA. Demand that they remove all evidence of the inquiry from your credit report. Send your letter certified mail, and give the company a time limit in which to comply. If they do not remove the inquiry, the FCRA gives you the legal right to file a civil suit to force them to do so. You are also allowed to sue for punitive damages.