About the Three Credit Agencies
There are three major credit agencies in the credit reporting industry: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. And many consumers are unaware of the far-reaching impact they can have on their life. Your credit score and credit history will impact your ability to secure a loan, get a credit card, and in some instances, even get a job. In addition to compiling information about your history of paying certain creditors, these agencies also compile public records. And it doesn’t stop there. The information credit agencies gather on you can even be sold to marketers.
So who are these reporting agencies who are so omnipresent in your life? Banks.com is here to give you a high-level overview and a few interesting facts about each.
1. TransUnion Credit Reporting Agency
The most well-known of the three major credit reporting agencies, TransUnion was founded in 1968. However, at the time, they were not a credit agency. Instead they were a holding company in the railroad industry. In 1969, TransUnion bought Credit Bureau of Cook County, acquiring information about more than 3 million credit card records in the process. Over the years, TransUnion has been acquired and sold numerous times. They are currently based in Chicago IL and they have operations in 33 countries worldwide.
2. Experian Credit Reporting Agency
Experian was originally TRW Information Systems and Services Inc., which was also a credit reporting agency – although this was not their primary business. The original company was established as part of a sale to venture capital companies Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners in 1996. This company has a checkered history including being responsible for issuing inaccurate credit scores and registering consumers for automatic credit monitoring services under the guise of obtaining free credit reports. They are responsible for maintaining the privacy of over 200 million individuals credit records and more than 20 million business credit records. Experian is based in Ireland and they operate in 37 countries worldwide.
3. Equifax Credit Reporting Agency
The oldest of the three credit agencies, Equifax, was founded as Retail Credit Company in 1899. The company bills itself as a data analytics and technology company but is also subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) like the other reporting agencies. Unfortunately for Equifax, they had a significant data breach in 2017 where personally identifiable information on more than 145 million consumers was exposed. They are based in Georgia and they operate in 24 countries worldwide.
How Credit Agencies Use Data
Credit reporting companies agencies compile data from credit card companies, banks, mortgage companies and public records. The data from creditors is blended together and a credit score is generated for both consumers and businesses. This data is then provided to those who inquire about your credit-worthiness — such as when you apply for a loan, apply for a job, or apply for a credit card.
The Impact of Your Credit
ScoreYour credit report can help or hinder your everyday life. For example, if you have negative items on your credit report you may be denied a loan, turned down for a credit card, or may not be able to obtain certain types of jobs. Because of the importance of accurate information, all consumers are strongly encouraged to obtain their free credit reports at least once per year. Since all three credit agencies are required to provide the report at least one time annually, many consumers obtain their reports from each of the three at different times.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act which was passed in July 2010 gave some additional power to consumers regarding their credit scores. Because your credit score can impact the cost of insurance, a consumer may be able to obtain their credit score free of charge if they have been denied insurance.
Disputing Inaccurate Information
All consumers have the right to dispute information contained in their credit reports that they feel is inaccurate. Many consumers will review their reports prior to applying for a mortgage, car loan, or just prior to opening a new credit card account. Inaccuracies can result in a lower credit score — which in turn will increase your borrowing costs in the form of higher rates.
Once a dispute has been resolved in the consumers favor, all three agencies must show the updated information. Consumers then have the right to obtain an updated copy of their credit report.
Identity Theft and Fraud
Consumers who are victims of fraud and identity theft have the right to request the credit agencies freeze their credit reports. This function means you cannot open a new credit line without “unfreezing” the data. While anyone has the right to request a credit agency freeze their credit, most consumers would have to pay a fee to do so. That’s not the case for victims of fraud or identity theft – they can usually do so for free.
Your credit report can have an impact on many aspects of your life. Credit agencies hold a lot of information on file including personal information like your work history, your social security number and history of past debts. Consumers should always be aware of what is contained in their credit reports and should take immediate steps to dispute inaccurate information.