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History Of Equifax - Company Owns Your Secrets
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History Of Equifax - Company Owns Your Secrets

Most people have heard of Equifax, one of the largest credit bureaus in the world along with Experian and TransUnion. But few have heard the backstory of how the company got started and how they grew to become the juggernaut they are today. I'll discuss the history of Equifax, a company whose primary assets are your secrets.

History Of Equifax and Retail Credit Company

The company began in 1899, but back then it was named Retail Credit Company. When they started, the original idea was to collect as much information on consumers as possible. Employees were encouraged to learn everything they could about everyone who was likely to request credit. As banks became larger and more families took out more loans around the world, the company expanded its policy to collect absolutely everything about everyone.

At one point, Retail Credit Company encouraged their employees to collect negative information, such as marital problems, rumors of infidelity, job history, school records, political beliefs, and any legal troubles for every person on file. The company also had a policy of selling every single bit of this information to anyone willing to pay. While this gave them a good source of income, the records collected weren't always accurate since much of it was based on here-say.

By 1920, Retail Credit Company had spread to multiple offices in both the United States and Canada. By 1960, the public began to question the company's practices and called for government action to curb their power and scope. The public outcry grew louder, and in 1970, Congress held hearings to discuss the problem. This resulted in the passing of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which allowed consumers to request access to their own credit file.

Changing The Company Name To Equifax and Cleaning Up Their Image

In 1975, the company changed its name to Equifax in an attempt to shred or at least lessen its negative image. Since then, they have grown in size and resources and have branched out into the commercial credit reporting business. Some of the business units have been split off into separate entities, such as its insurance industry service which later became ChoicePoint, and it's payment service system which went through a number of mergers to eventually become part of Fidelity National Financial.

Equifax has been fined by the Federal Trade Commission twice since 1970 for violating the FCRA. Once in 2000 for blocking phone calls from consumers who attempted to learn more about their credit reports, and once again in 2003 for the exact same reason. But, they are not alone in this practice. Experian and TransUnion were both fined for the same thing in 2000.

Equifax Today - A Global Juggernaut Of Business and Credit Services

Today, Equifax has over 6500 employees and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. They have offices worldwide and have an annual revenue of nearly 2 Billion USD. They are publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol EFX.

They are still best known for selling access to consumer credit reports and scores, however they also offer other services and products, including a consumer identity theft protection program known as Equifax ID Patrol, as well as offering business analytics data to other businesses.

Consumer Credit Reporting

Thanks to the FCRA, consumers are allowed one free personal credit report every 12 months by contacting each of the credit agencies directly. However, these free reports do not include your "credit score" which is a numerical metric that each company generates based on their own proprietary formula. Banks and other credit issuers often use these numbers as a primary indicator of consumer credit-worthiness. They usually base their decision on the median score out of all 3 scores from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

In order to access these scores yourself, you will either need to request the information from the lending institution who wants to check your creditreport, or you'll need to purchase a report with scores yourself. The most important thing is to make sure that your credit report doesn't contain inaccurate information. If so, you will have trouble obtaining new credit sources, and your credit card company make decide to revoke your existing credit if the problems appear bad enough.

The Future of Equifax

In a press release issued in October of 2011, Equifax announced that its international units were growing at a rapid rate, and that they expected this growth pattern to continue. While they have long dominated the North American credit reporting market, their international presence hasn't been quite as prominent. The trend of global expansion is often difficult to track, as local currencies can fluctuate so much in relation to US currency. However, they noted in the press release that their revenue growth was double digits for every market except Brazil.

The future looks bright for Equifax, as they have come a long way from sleazy, underhanded rumor gathering to more factual-based reporting.

Street Talk


Are you kidding??? Equifax is still the sleazy company they always were. They thrive on giving bad credit reports. I sent them documentation that something was paid off. Not only did they refuse to put in on my report and update it my credit score went down because they reported it recently the same month as derogatory. They suck. I totally understand why people go postal.

  about 8 years ago

Shakespeare wrote that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. It is equally true that changing a company's name does not change it's purpose and goals. Great article. I highly recommend people know who the credit scoring bureaus really are and whose interests are on their agendas.

  about 9 years ago
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