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There are three major credit bureaus, which are responsible for collecting financial and other credit information about people and providing credit report. See credit report comparison here for details.
These three major credit bureaus are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They compile information in the form of a credit report and, under the federal law you can access a copy of your report for free once in a year. Creditors and other financial institutions use these credit reports to determine the financial status of an individual.
Functions of the Credit bureaus.
Of the three, Equifax is the oldest credit bureau. All the major financial institutions like banks, credit card companies, utility services and hospitals etc., report the paid and unpaid bills, loans and debts to the bureaus. The bureaus, in turn, prepare a comprehensive credit report, which contains personal details like name, current and past addresses, social security number, lawsuits and arrests of the individuals. There are details of financial transactions conducted by the individual during the year. There are two more sections in the reports, which contain information about inquiries and collections. The section Inquiries, gives details of the people and agencies/companies who had accessed the report of the individual and the reasons for it. “Collections” contains the outstanding judgments and payments against the individual.
Apart from these, the credit bureaus provide other services, for which the individual has to pay. The credit reports are free of cost but they do not contain the credit score. The three bureaus prepare their credit scores separately and individuals can purchase them from the websites.
- Experian prepares business credit reports too
- TransUnion was the first bureau to offer online services for accessing credit reports.
- Equifax offers consumers, credit monitoring services and another service known as Credit Lock, which prevents other organizations from viewing the credit report.
Laws Governing The Credit Bureaus
The Fair Credit Report Act, Fair Credit Billing Act and The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act have set some rules and norms, which have to be followed by the credit bureaus. The rules provide that the consumer can access his credit report for free once in a year. Also, no one other than the consumer can access the report without his explicit written permission.
There are numerous other credit bureaus but only the three credit bureaus mentioned above are authorized by the government to provide the credit report to the consumers.