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Equifax® is one of the three major credit reporting bureaus in the United States, and also operates in other countries. While it is not owned by the government, it works closely with the government in countries of operation to ensure that privacy laws are not violated, and may even report suspicious activity from time to time. These activities, along with the primary purpose of the company, may make it seem more like a governmental function when it is not.
Equifax® is the oldest of the three primary credit bureaus, being founded in 1899. The longevity of the company has helped to make it a leader in the industry. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, the company has approximately 7,000 employees in 15 different countries.
Equifax® collects information on individuals from different creditors, and puts that information into a comprehensive report. The report is scored, and a number rating is assigned to the individual's results. This is known as the Equifax® score or the Equifax® FICO score. FICO stands for Fair, Isaac and Company, which developed a formula for scoring credit reports. Other formulas may be used by other companies, though this one has become a standard.
Even companies that use the same formula can come up with slightly different credit ratings. This is because the sources Equifax® uses may not be exactly the same as those used by one of the other major credit bureaus. While there will be a substantial amount of overlap, not all companies will report to all three bureaus. Nevertheless, the results between the three bureaus should be generally similar. Results that differ substantially are an indicator that something is amiss.
The credit score is one measure a lender may use to decide whether an applicant has enough credit worthiness to extend a loan. In short, it is an assessment of the risk presented by the applicant to the lender. The score will help determine whether to accept or deny the loan application, and also gives the lender an indication of how high an interest rate to charge before proceeding with the loan.
While most people believe that information stays on a credit report for seven years, that is not necessarily the case. Each individual credit reporting bureau determines its own policy. For example, on credit accounts paid as agreed, the information stays on an individual's Equifax® credit report for ten years. For accounts not paid as agreed, the information stays on for seven years from the date of the last activity. Judgments stay on record for seven years, and bankruptcies remain on the record for 10 years. Some of these time periods will be lessened for residents in New York and California, according to the laws of those states.
There are a number of rights an individual has when dealing with Equifax®, or any other credit reporting agency. All credit reporting agencies are have a dispute policy in place, in case the individual feels there is something wrong with his or her credit report. Further, every individual has a right to request a free credit report from each of three major agencies once a year.