This article is from the Credit cards and Consumer Credit FAQ, by firstname.lastname@example.org (Steve Adams) with numerous contributions by others.
Whenever you or anyone else asks for a copy of your credit report,
the request is supposed to be noted as part of your credit history.
If you apply for lots of credit cards in a short time, this will
produce a flurry of "inquiry" notes on your credit report. Lenders
often turn this around and assume that a flurry of inquiries means
you've recently applied for lots of credit, so they turn you down on
that basis even though the inference is not strictly valid.
If a lender cites "excessive inquiries" as a reason for turning you
down, this is what has happened. The lender has guidelines for how
many inquiries in what period of time is too many. Unfortunately,
you have no legal right to challenge this policy or even to know
what the specific criteria may be.
Don't give your name or address to a merchant until you're actually
ready to apply for credit there. Some merchants illegally run
credit checks on you as soon as they have your name and address,
even though you have not applied for credit, to give them an idea of
what to sell you and how. (I'm told many car dealers do this.)
I don't know what legal recourse, if any, you have against
If lender A sees inquiries from B, C, and D but no new accounts, A
may assume that B, C, and D turned you down for credit. Figuring
"better safe than sorry," A may then turn you down just because it
assumes B, C, and D turned you down. Again, this is a judgment call
on the part of A, and you have no legal right to challenge it. If
you have not applied for any credit recently but have been, say,
looking at cars at several dealerships, you might want to let the
lender know this in case it's taking unauthorized inquiries into