Equifax is one of the three big agencies that manage credit reports and credit scores for the world. They manage about 800 million consumer records and 88 million business files. The other two agencies are TransUnion and Experian. Each company is privately owned and operated and may contain different information. It is a good idea to get a copy of your credit report from each one to make sure there are no errors in it.
Like it or not, you need good credit to buy a house, apply for loans or credit cards, and even to buy a car. Landlords often check credit reports before renting to you, so if you have bad credit, you might have trouble in life.
How it works is that lenders form partnerships with credit reporting agencies, and they pull credit reports and review your score when you apply for a loan or ask for money. If your score is too low, they may deny you. However, if your credit is poor, there are things you can do to improve it.
The FTC is the government agency in charge of credit bureaus, and they honor the Fair Credit Reporting Act by governing how credit reporting agencies do business. If you have trouble with one of the big three, you can file a complaint with the FTC to help get it resolved. According to the FCRA, everyone has the right to a free copy of their credit report each year from all three agencies. The three credit bureaus teamed up and created an FTC-approved website (annualcreditreport.com) to satisfy this requirement.
What is Equifax?
Equifax calls themselves “data collectors,” and that is essentially true, but credit bureaus are so much more than that.
Equifax was founded as a Retail Credit Company in 1899 by Cator and Guy Woolford of Atlanta, Georgia. They are still headquartered there today. By 1920 they had offices all over America and Canada. Their success was legendary, and by 1960, they were the largest credit bureau in the U.S. In the early days, most of their business was to insurance companies supplying them with information when someone applied for home, auto, life or other types of insurance policy. They had a reputation as the company to contact when you needed information on a consumer.
How Does Equifax Get Information
Retail Credit Company came under fire in the 60s and 70s for gathering “facts, statistics, inaccuracies, and rumors about virtually every phase of a person’s life; his marital troubles, jobs, school history, childhood, sex life, and political activities.” They were also criticized for rewarding employees who discovered unfavorable information about a consumer. In 1970, Congress held hearings regarding these complaints, and from those hearings came the Fair Credit Reporting Act., to protect consumers’ rights. In 1975, Retail Credit Company was forced to change its name to Equifax and clean up its reputation. Equifax then expanded its consumer credit services all over America, the U.K., and Canada.
In 2010, Equifax purchased an identity verification software company called Anakam, Inc. Then in 2011, Equifax acquired a business intelligence company called eThority. Equifax Workforce Solutions was hired by the U.S. government to work on the Healthcare.gov website.
Equifax has always prioritized business-to-business products and services. They were late to the game offering consumers credit assistance and services aimed at improving their financial situation.
May-July 2017 Equifax Data Breach
Equifax was again thrown in the fire when they suffered a massive data breach in May of 2017. This security breach exposed personal data for more than 145.5 million Americans. Things like names, addresses, phone numbers, PINS, social security numbers, credit card data, and even banking information was stolen. The breach occurred in May but wasn’t discovered until June. Equifax’s stock price dropped 13% because of this data breach. Their reputation also suffered a massive blow as a result. Equifax was sued in numerous lawsuits after the data breach. They continue to work with the FBI and FTC to resolve this issue.
What Does Equifax Do?
On Equifax’s website, they describe how does Equifax work:
“We serve as a consumer advocate, steward of financial literacy, and champion of economic advancement. As an innovative global information solutions company that enables access to credit, we’re part of breakthrough collaborations and innovations that address complex social challenges such as social welfare, community relations, and financial education for underprivileged youth. We establish relationships that create economically healthy communities. We help individuals gain financial independence by increasing access to capital and micro-lending for small businesses. And we provide young adults entering college or university with financial education tools.” Their tagline reads “Powering the World with Knowledge.”
Despite the lofty message, Equifax is a credit bureau gathering and collating data about each U.S. citizen for the purpose of selling it to creditors and lenders. They collect the information from various sources (some paid and some free), and then they use algorithms to calculate a credit score. Your credit score tells companies how creditworthy you are and whether or not they want to risk lending you any money. Credit bureaus do not make lending decisions. They simply supply the information to the people who do.
Equifax has services for both consumers and businesses.
- Credit monitoring and theft protection.
- FICO Score protection.
- Credit locking - where you can lock and unlock your credit through your mobile device.
- Fraud alerts.
- Credit freezes.
- Credit reporting assistance.
Business Services & Products
- Customer acquisition assistance.
- Credit monitoring and reporting.
- Credit reports and scores.
- Help grow your business.
- Analytics and marketing services.
- Workforce management.
- Regulatory compliance help.
- Risk management.
- Fraud prevention.
- Debt recovery.
- I.D. verification services.
Equifax also offers small business customers resources and products to help them specifically.