In the United States, three major credit bureaus create and track the credit ratings for millions of consumers. The tree bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax work with creditor to keep track on consumer debt information including open accounts, total outstanding debt, payment history, and other information used to determine the credit worthiness of borrowers.
While marketed as independent bodies, credit agencies have increasingly blurred ethical lines in order to generate more profits. While they are entrusted with the private data for millions of people financial lives, the bureaus now earn even more money by selling offers of "identity protection" essentially charging consumers to keep safe the very information they have been entrusted with in the first place.
Based in Chicago, IL, TransUnion is the smallest of the big three credit bureaus. Like the others, it earns money by selling credit reports, and offering a variety of other services to consumers and businesses. Like all credit bureaus, TransUnion is bound by the rules of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Experian is a multinational credit conglomerate with offices in 36 countries based in Dublin, Ireland. In addition to credit reporting, Experian also collects lifestyle data about people, businesses, and other products through on and offline surveys.
Equifax, based in Atlanta GA handles credit and debt information on over 400 million individuals worldwide. While primarily engaged in business-to-business transactions, Equifax does offer consumer products like credit monitoring and "credit-lock" which limits the amount of access others have to their credit report.
Credit reporting agencies are large companies whose primary goal is to make money for their investors. It is important that consumers understand that their credit report may frequently contain errors or inaccuracies, due to clerical errors, omissions, and even outright fraud by identity thieves. While the law requires that each bureau have systems for fixing erroneous reports, the credit bureaus do not check out every piece of information in your report. It is up to you to make sure that this important information is correct and current.