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Equifax Inc.
Type Corporation (NYSE:EFX)
Founded 1899
Headquarters Atlanta, Georgia
Industry Business Services, Consumer Services
Revenue $1.5 Billion USD (2005)
Employees 7,000+
Website www.equifax.com

Equifax Inc. is a consumer credit reporting agency in the United States, considered one of the three largest American credit agencies along with Experian and TransUnion. Founded in 1899, Equifax is the oldest of the three agencies and gathers and maintains information on over 400 million credit holders worldwide. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Equifax is a global service provider with US $1.5 billion in annual revenue and 7,000+ employees in 14 countries. Equifax is listed on the NYSE.

Contents

History

Equifax was founded as Retail Credit Company in 1899. The company grew quickly and by 1920 had offices throughout the US and Canada. By the 1960s, Retail Credit Company was one of the nation's largest credit bureaus, holding files on millions of American and Canadian citizens.

Retail Credit Company's extensive information holdings, and its willingness to sell them to anyone, attracted criticism of the company in the 1960s and 1970s. These included that it collected "...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." The company was also alleged to reward its employees for collecting negative information on consumers.[1]

As a result, when the company moved to computerize its records, which would lead to much wider availability of the personal information it held, the US Congress held hearings in 1970. These led to the enactment of the Fair Credit Reporting Act in the same year which gave consumers rights regarding information stored about them in corporate databanks. It is alleged that the hearings prompted the Retail Credit Company to change its name to Equifax in 1975 to improve its image.[1]

The company has been fined by the Federal Trade Commission on two occasions for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In 2000, Equifax along with Experian and Trans Union were fined US$2.5 million for blocking and delaying phone calls from consumers trying to get information about their credit. In 2003, the FTC took Equifax to court for the same reason and settled its lawsuit with the company for a fine of US$250,000.[2] [3].

The company later expanded into commercial credit reports on companies in the US, Canada and the UK, where it came into competition with companies such as Dun & Bradstreet and Experian. The company also had a division selling specialist credit information to the insurance industry but spun off this service, including the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) database as ChoicePoint in 1997. The company formerly offered digital certification services, which it sold to GeoTrust in September 2001. In the same year, Equifax spun-off its payment services division, forming the publicly-listed company Certegy, which subsequently acquired Fidelity National Information Services in 2006. Certegy effectively became a subsidiary of Fidelity National Financial as a result of this reverse acquisition merger (See Certegy and Fidelity National Information Services for further information).

Products

For most of its existence, Equifax has operated primarily in the business-to-business sector, selling consumer credit reports and related analytics to businesses in a range of industries. Business customers include retailers, insurance firms, healthcare providers, utilities, government agencies, as well as banks and other financial institutions.

Equifax sells businesses credit reports, analytics, demographic data, and software. Credit reports provide detailed information on the personal credit and payment history of individuals, indicating how they have honored financial obligations such as paying bills or repaying a loan. Businesses then use this information to decide what sort of products or services to offer their customers, and on what terms.

Beginning in 1999, Equifax began offering products that help people monitor their credit history, including alerting consumers to the possibility of their being a victim of credit fraud or identity theft. Equifax, and other credit monitoring agencies are required by law to provide US citizens with one free credit file disclosure every 12 months, which may be requested on-line at Annualcreditreport.com.

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Equifax Credit Watch

Equifax also sells online reports and a subscription services for credit monitoring. Registered members can log into the Credit Watch web site and obtain reports, set alert preferences, and manage Credit Lock settings.[1]

Credit Lock

Equifax also offers a credit lock service that prevents or limits inquiries into subscribers credit reports. Subscribers to the credit lock service can set their preferences for access to their credit report. It can be set for access to all inquiries for a specified duration or set for selective access by specific organizations using a PIN system. Similar services are being offered by other credit bureaus and third party companies such as LifeLock.

Credit score

Associated with a person’s credit history, though not part of the credit report, is a number called a Credit score.

The most widely used provider of credit scores is Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO). FICO scores come into the credit picture when potential lenders obtain credit information from a credit reporting agency (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, etc) in the form of a credit report and process the report data through FICO's proprietary software algorithm to produce a credit score ranging from 350-850.

The potential lender then uses the score along with other data to decide if extending credit to the loan applicant is an acceptable risk.

The formula used to calculate a FICO score is a closely guarded secret and has been reported to vary dynamically depending on such factors as the rate of bankruptcy filings, foreclosures and current financial climate.

Recent consumer issues

As of July 2007, Equifax form letters include a toll-free number, (888) 876-5796, that is no longer in service. Below this defunct phone number, the Equifax form letter informs customers that they "must call within 60 days" if they wish to dispute any information contained within the letter. As of February 2009, the form letters include the number 866-224-9235, however this number is no longer functional (as of March 12, 2009).

As of December 2007, the telephone number listed for disputing items on the free online credit report (866-233-4027) is also defunct, returning a "not in service" message when called.

Alternatively you can dispute by mail with a free credit dispute form, which gives the bureau 30 days to respond to a complaint or delete the inaccurate account. [2] Additionally, Equifax must then provide you with a free report showing the updated account information.

See also

References and footnotes

  1. ^ a b Separating Equifax from fiction, Wired, September 1995, retrieved 13 September 2007
  2. ^ Equifax Fined $250,000 Fine By FTC, NBC 10, 3 August 2003, retrieved 13 September 2007
  3. ^ "Equifax to Pay $250,000 to Settle Charges". ConsumerAffairs.com. 2003-07-30. http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news03/equifax.html. Retrieved 2007-07-23.  

External links


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