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Equifax Inc. is most often recognized as being one of the top three consumer credit reporting agencies, including Experian and TransUnion.
Equifax was founded in 1899 as Retail Credit Company and is the oldest of the three agencies. By 1920 it had offices in the United States and Canada and by the 1960’s protected millions of credit histories. It has now been in business for 107 years providing consumer and business services. In 1975 it changed its name to Equifax. It is traded on the New York Stock Exchange as EFX, and is a Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 500 company. Although its corporate headquarters is Atlanta, Georgia, it employs 4,600 people worldwide in 13 countries and reports $1.4 billion in revenue.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Equifax came under criticism for the extensive nature of information that it was obtaining about consumers. This included information about an individual and other private parts of a person’s life like marital status, employment, sex life and political affiliation. Much of the criticism was due to not only the extensive nature of the information, but the methods by which it was obtained, and their willingness to “sell” the information.
Due to the extensive (and possibly inaccurate) nature of their records, as well as the more recent computerization of the records, leading to simpler availability of this information, the U.S. Congress developed the Fair US Credit Reporting Act. This act was designed to protect consumers from the release of specific information about them, as well as limit access to such information.
The Federal Trade Commission has fined Equifax on two occassions for violations pertaining to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. All three companies (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) were fined $2.5 million dollars for not accepting phone call inquiries from US consumers attempting to obtain their credit report information.
In 2003, Equifax was again fined the sum of $250,000 for identical infractions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Additional services provided by Equifax include the sale of commercial credit reports on companies in the US, Canada and the UK, now making it a major competitor with companies like Experian and the well-known Dun & Bradstreet. Equifax has digital certification services and a payment services division. Equifax also sells credit information to the insurance industry and provides security solutions for global commerce. Its customers range from the everyday small individual consumer to large healthcare and government industries.
One of their most recent services offered to consumers is the Equifax 3-1 Monitoring System.
Equifax’s 3-in-1 service costs $12.95 a month. Anyone who chooses to get this service from Equifax will get their credit report monitored at each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax,Experian and TransUnion). The 3-in-1 deal also includes automated notification of changes to any of these three credit agency reports, the ability to customize their alerts (how often they receive them and how they receive them), and unlimited access to your Equifax Credit Report. Very nice of them to give you the “opportunity” to view your own credit. The policy also includes up to $20,000 worth of Identity Theft Insurance with no deductible (but of course there are certain limitations and exclusions which apply) and they say that you’ll be able to access customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (However, it’s possible that the customer service may be in India.)
Consumers may chose from several different additional services. One of these is “Score Power” which also: provides access to your FICO score (credit score), an explanation of that your score means, how credit lenders perceive your credit information, a comparison of your score, and the ability to use the Equifax online dispute feature (for free) to dispute errors on your credit report. ScorePower also provides an “Interactive Score Simulator” that shows you how a certain financial decision (to purchase a car for example) may change your credit score. Add-on services currently range in price from $8.95 to $39.95, depending on the features and benefits you choose.
The 3-in-1 policy has some very nice options including the identity theft insurance policy as well as the ability to customize your alerts. This service does provide access to all three credit reports as well as the instant gratification of viewing your report online immediately upon registering for the service, as well as the convenience of having all your credit monitoring, dispute and insurance products in one package. However, some consumers may feel that the price of $12.95 a month ($155.40 for the year) is not a good value.
If you are interested in purchasing this product or would like additional information about other products and services visit Equifax online.