Basic Facts About the Credit Reporting Agencies CRAs

You might be surprised to know that in and around the 1960s, there were thousands of credits reporting agencies. Credit reporting agencies grew in their number at an astronomical rate because creditors wanted to know about the credit worthiness of an individual before they lent the money. Credit card companies and lending institutions wanted to know how safe was an individual to allow the use of credit before they approved them for credit. This is how the idea of collecting information on the credit behavior of an individual came into place. The system was created that made a profile of an individual regarding his borrowing habits. These were called credit reports and still are.

Today, after many surges of mergers and buyouts there are three main credit reporting agencies that collect and compile your financial information that is connected to credit. These three credit agencies are also known as the national credit bureaus and go by the name of Experian, formly known as TRW, Equifax and TransUnion. These are the three main national credit reporting agencies that most of the creditors subscribe to. They maintain your credit information in a file that is known as your credit report or your credit file.

It might be strange but it is also common nevertheless that many people are under the impression that the credit reporting agencies are somehow government related organizations and connected to the federal government.
The truth in fact is the credit reporting agencies are profit-making companies that gather and sell information about consumers to creditors and other institutions and individuals eligible to access a person’s credit report and not government organizations.
The basis of this misconception could be that somehow the words “agencies” and “bureaus” that gives the impression that they might be federal agencies. However, you must be very clear in your mind that credit bureaus they are private companies and not run by the federal government.

However, the federal government has actively stepped in to monitor the functioning of the credit reporting agencies because of this sometime back, they were earning unpopular reputations due to inaccuracies and incompleteness of the credit files of thousands of consumers. Since there was no hard and fast regulation governing the way they were supposed to conduct business, almost anyone could access your credit file as well. Mistakes on the credit files were common and not much recourse to correcting them was open to the individual. The federal government has got involved and corrected a lot of problems by setting legislative requirements for these credit reporting agencies and drafting some very targeted laws that give consumers a lot of flights over their own credit files maintained by these CRAs. In the next few post we learn about the fair credit reporting act, FCRA and the fair and accurate credit reporting act, FACT Act.

Experian Contact Information for Personal Users

This is the contact information for Equifax national credit bureau. This information is for the personal consumers. This information is taken from the website of Experian.com. You can visit the website here and see it yourself.

Order My Credit Report and Score from Experian

Online: Get Your Credit Report and Score

Phone: 1 888 397 3742

Dispute Information on My Credit Report from Experian

You must have a copy of your Experian credit report to use this service.

Online: Visit Credit DisputesStart Monitoring Your Credit

Phone:  Contact us at the toll free number on your credit report.

Get Help with Fraud, Identity Theft and My Credit

Online: Visit Credit Fraud CenterGet Identity Theft Protection

Phone: 1 888 397 3742

Ask Questions About My Existing Triple Advantage® Membership

Online: Email Support Team

Phone: 1 877 284 7942

Address for Sending Dispute Letter to Experian, Equifax and TransUnion Credit Bureaus

You can file a dispute with the credit bureaus by sending a dispute letter through postal mail.

In order to file a dispute with the credit bureaus, you can either use the forms that they provide when you order your credit report by mail, or, if for some reason that form is not suitable, you can write your own dispute letter. It is also a good idea to send a copy of your credit report with the errors highlighted. You should send in any additional document that verify and substantiate your claim. A credit bureau is mandated by the fair credit reporting act to investigate your dispute and respond to you within 30 days in writing with the results of the investigation.

The following are addresses for each of the 3 national credit bureaus where you can mail them your dispute letter.

Dispute Addresses for  Equifax:

Equifax P.O. Box 740 4256 Atlanta, GA 30374-0256

Dispute Address for Experian

Experian Dispute Department P.O. Box 9701 Allen, Texas 75013

Dispute address for TransUnion

TransUnion Consumer Solutions, P.O. Box 2000 Chester, PA 19022 2000.

It is highly recommended that you get a recent copy of your personal credit report before sending a dispute letter. Most of the times, the credit bureaus will not entertain a dispute letter or a dispute request till you have a recent copy of your personal credit report. One of the reasons is that it is difficult for the CRAs to tally the information in your dispute letter to the information on your credit file if you are not basing it on a recent copy. If the copy of your credit report is not a recent one, the information that you are looking at and the one that the credit bureau checks it against might have changed or be different, in which case they will probably inform you that they cannot find the information you are referring to.

While the above mentioned addresses were current during the time of writing this post, you will get the most current and correct address for sending the dispute letter when you order your credit report in mail from the credit reporting agency. There will also be a pre-formatted form that you can use to list your accounts and information that you wish to dispute. This form is simple to fill and mail back to the credit reporting agencies.

Why Do Credit Bureaus Charge For Credit Reports

Why does a credit bureau charge for a credit report? Credit reporting system evolved more than 100 years ago. Different traders moved from place to place collecting information about the credit habits of borrowers. Over the years this system evolved and with the advent of computers took on a national scale. The 3 national credit bureaus came in to being according to the different areas that they had their business in. the reason why credit bureaus charge for a credit report is that, it is after all a business.

The credit bureau provide a service to the money lending businesses by recording credit history and enabling a score credit score to be calculated for the purpose of the measurement of the credit risk of an individual. It is now in the interest of the consumer to maintain a good credit history and to ensure that the information being reported on his credit report is accurate and current.

For this reason the FACT act and the FCRA introduced laws that entitled the consumer to free credit reports. Without these laws the credit reporting agencies would probably be more than happy to charge you for every single credit report. because of this law they can only charge you if you purchase a copy of credit report through them. Credit reporting is a business and the 3 national credit bureaus are competitors.

This is a good thing as being in competition means that one is constantly trying to out do the other is offering the consumer a better service experience. However, the cost of a credit report from the credit bureau is typically the same from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax which is about $10.50. Some states offer discounted rates to consumers for buying their credit reports. View the table on this page to see what discounts apply to your state. www.crediaid.com/free-credit-report.htm

Why You May Have To Buy A Credit Report After Having Used Up The Free One

Why should I buy a credit report? It is true that you can get free credit reports under the FCRA and the FACT act. All consumers are eligible for one free credit report from each of the credit bureau once every 12 months. You may also be eligible for more than one free credit report depending upon circumstances and the state laws. However, you can also buy your credit report from a credit bureau. The reason that you may need to purchase a credit report a credit bureau is that you may need to check your credit report more than the number of times you can avail it for free.

Generally when a consumer is looking to make a sizable purchase on credit, such as a home loan or an automobile loan he is advised to check his credit report a month 4-6 weeks prior to making the purchase. This helps you to get a better idea of what your credit report contains and the information that your creditor will be looking at while evaluating your application for the loan. This gives you ample time to check your credit report for errors and to dispute it with the credit bureaus.

You can check your credit report for any negative history and be prepared to explain it to the creditor if he raises questions about prior credit records.

Another reason why people buy credit reports from a credit bureau is when they want to make frequent checks in to their credit reports. You may want to monitor not only your own credit report and the information that is reported on it but also the credit report of your entire family including children. The credit bureaus and particularly Experian offer credit monitoring plans where you can monitor the credit report for your entire family for a monthly fee. If you go on the Experian website, you will find that they offer a 7 day free trial of the Credit Monitoring service.

A free personal credit report does not come with a credit score. A credit score needs to be purchased from a credit bureau or another respectable 3rd party. It is commonly advised that you should order a credit score at least once from a credit bureau. when you purchase your credit score from the credit bureau you get a lot of information along with it that is of great educational value. You will be provided explanatory information on all the factors that are affecting your credit score both positively and negatively.

Why Are There 3 Credit Reporting Bureaus

The reason why the three credit reporting companies in the United States of America has simply got to do with the way things developed over the period of time.  Credit reporting had its birth more than a hundred years ago.  When the system was not so organized and unified individuals went to different merchants in different towns and cities collecting information about the credit behavior of individuals and how they repaid their debts.  The benefit to the lenders and the margins even at that point of time was that they could then ask for a reference based on the information present on the local credit bureau files.

Eventually with the advent of time and as with any other business and industry credit reporting expanded got automated and consolidated into three regional credit reporting companies.  Experian involved in the West and is now based in California.  Transunion based in Chicago expanded its business in central United States and Equifax based in Atlanta spread its business in the South and East.

When the system got computerized and the scope of communication and maintaining database on a national level developed all the three credit reporting companies gained national scope and became competitors.  While all three of them serve the same basic purpose the ancillary services and customer the links differ along with the list of clients that they have.

Just like any other business that manufactures the same goods and services but has competitors in forms of other companies doing the same thing where one is not necessarily worse than the other part more matter of reference on the part of the consumer, credit bureaus also compete amongst each other while providing the same service of credit reporting to the consumer and business.

It is normally a belief that competition in any field is good for the overall business as it provides more beneficial terms to the consumer and avoids monopoly by a single service provider.  The same probably holds true for the credit reporting companies.

The Difference between the Three National Credit Reporting Agencies

Consumers sometimes maybe confused as to why there are three different national credit reporting agency’s and why their credit report and their credit score may differ from one to another.  The three main national credit reporting agency’s are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.  These three national credit reporting agency’s compete to sell credit reports and provide other services related to credit to consumers all over the United States.  There is a fourth national credit agency that has recently entered this market called Innovis but it has not yet managed to expand its business and cover the consumer market with the same kind of comprehensiveness as the other three credit bureaus.

A fact that adds to the confusion is that there are also some local or regional credit reporting agency’s that work in affiliation with either of the three major credit reporting agency’s. they collect consumer data and record credit information in pretty much the same manner and similar database as the national credit reporting companies with which they are affiliated.  For someone who is not aware of this change of hierarchy the difference between the main credit agency and the local affiliate may be almost invisible.  However, these affiliate local credit reporting agencies are becoming fewer and fewer in number as they have been acquired by the main credit bureaus and being merged into their systems.  The question that arises in a computer consumers mine is that why cannot they be just one credit report coming from one national credit agency.  Credit reports and credit score though governed by the federal law and the rules set down according to the fair credit reporting act are profit-making enterprises.  They make money by selling credit reports and providing other services to consumer individuals as well as various lenders and creditors for whom credit rating forms the basis of decision-making when lending credit to the consumer.  No competition in this market would probably mean monopoly by a single enterprise which is never healthy to any market..  Having competition probably has a positive affect on this market as the various companies work harder to provide the most accurate data in their credit reports and the best customer service with the lowest pricing possible.  Since they are competing the system of collecting credit data is being constantly refined with additional services be added for the customers benefit all the tide.

The consumer probably ends up benefiting from the fact that there are three national credit agencies competing against each other in spite of the inconvenience that he might face with having to check the credit report and the credit scores from the three different national bureaus.  Checking your credit report from each different national credit agency becomes a requirement because different all three of them use different systems to collect data and calculate the credit score.  Because their competitors certain lenders may choose to report to 1, 2 or all three of them.  Since the data they have the record may differ depending on which lender is reporting to which your credit score may differ from one national agency to the other.  It is an important factor to remember that your particular credit score may only be valid that particular lender as there are thousands of credit scoring models being used in the market today each meant of some specific purpose such as mortgage, insurance, credit card etc.  It is possible that your credit may used specialized credit score for his purpose of making a decision on your credit worthiness.  However, credit scores under the same system such as FICO and VantageScore will always be the same no matter which source you get it from.

Though the national credit agencies are different and competitors in this market.  You should know that the legislation has made certain rules that require them to work together on certain grounds.  For example the national credit reporting agencies are supposed to share requests for security and fraught alerts and to maintain a jointly operated Internet site to allow consumers a single source to get their free credit reports every year.  Apart from this the national credit bureaus have worked together several years to set consumer assistant standards in order to be able to meet consumer needs and to build consistent practices.  Not all services are the same because as already mentioned the businesses are competitors and the systems, processes and policies have been developed separately.  But since credit is such a major aspect of living and lifestyle in the United States it has been realized by the government that consumer interest and assistance should not be compromised due to competitiveness in this field.  Which is why certain laws and regulations dictate that the three national credit bureaus work together on a few basic issues.

How To Contact The Credit Bureaus?

The first thing to consider before contacting the credit bureaus is the reason behind it. It might make a small difference to the procedure that you need to follow in order to make successful communication.  For example if you need to contact the credit bureau in regards to any discrepancy for error of entry on your credit report, then it is advisable first to get a copy of your recent credit report.  Many are times when you try to contact the credit bureau over the telephone or through the Internet the purpose of disputing an error, you are required to provide your credit report number first.  So in case you haven’t done so already you can get a free copy of your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com.

Contacting the credit bureaus online and through their website is is probably the easiest way to do it. If you feel that their online contact forms serve the purpose than this might be the quickest way to make contact. However, in case you need to send them a letter or documents through postal mail, listed below are the addresses and the official phone numbers of the three national credit bureaus.

Equifax
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
1-800-685-1111

Experian
P.O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
1 888 397 3742

TransUnion
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
1-800-888-4213.

 

However, things may not be quite as simple as they may seem.  If you are unable to get a person on the telephone line calling up on the numbers listed above and the numbers listed on the credit bureaus websites, try the underlying steps. These will have you speak directly to a person at the credit bureau.

Equifax

Dial 866 640-2273

Press 30 at each prompt, ignoring message.

Experian

Dial 800 493-1058

Say "yes"

Enter credit report #

Enter social security #

Say "yes"

Say "agent" then "yes" to confirm at prompts thereafter.

With this method, as is obvious, you are going to need your credit report number is listed on your credit report. So if you already have it, good. If you do not you can download the free copy that all credit bureaus are required to provide you with according to the law or if you have already exhausted this option, you can look try other methods in which case you will probably be required to pay a nominal fee for it.

TransUnion

Dial 800 916-8800

Press 2 at each prompt, ignoring messages.

What Are National Credit Bureaus?

Credit bureaus are agencies that collect and compile information about credit behavior from your creditors. These would include banks, credit card companies and all institutions that extend loans and credit. They also collect information from public records like federal court judgments for bankruptcy and tax liens. In certain states information on child support payment is also listed.

There are 3 main national credit bureaus. There names and addresses are as follows.

Equifax
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
1-800-685-1111

Experian
P.O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
1 888 397 3742

TransUnion
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
1-800-888-4213.

Every creditor is given the choice under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to send information to the National credit bureaus about its consumers are not. Various creditors report to the credit bureaus while some do not.  The information that is sent includes details about your credit account such as active accounts, the balance, payment schedule, missed payments and the defaulted accounts. Usually this information is sent to the credit bureaus for transcription on a monthly basis of depending upon the payment schedule. For example, an insurance company may only update consumers information once a year when the annual premium is due. If a creditor wants to report to a credit bureau they normally have two join their program.

The credit bureaus compile this information and create a report on your credit behavior and history which is commonly known as a credit report.  This report is available to businesses and government institutions who have what is known as a " permissible purpose". In order to read more about what qualifies as permissible purpose read this article about who all can access your credit report.

Most of the credit providing companies who report to the credit bureaus work on the basis of a mutual exchange of information.  They provide the credit bureaus with data for the consumers who they extend credit to and at the same time access the credit reports of various other potential customers, as long as their enquiry false within the premise of the "permissible purpose".

The National credit bureaus also provide a scale represented by either a number an alphanumeric string. This is what is known as the credit score. The credit score is the summation of what your credit history and credit report represents your credit worthiness to be.  The higher credit score that you have means that you represent a lesser risk to creditors in terms of credit extension. Initially the National credit bureaus used to use a scoring model called the FICO score which was developed by a third party. But now they have developed their own intrinsic scoring models such as the VantageScore. While you may get a free copy of your credit report from all the three national credit bureaus once a year, your credit score is normally only available for a fee.

TransUnion Contact Information For Personal Consumers

Need Solution
Credit Monitoring with TrueCredit.com.
True credit is a service through which TransUnion offers credit monitoring, identity theft protection and a snapshot of all the 3 credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian in one place. They also offer the TransUnion score along with this 3 in one report and a personal analysis of the score.
Online Phone number: (800) 493-2392
Purchase a TransUnion Credit Report.
Purchase a TransUnion credit report. If you are not eligible for a free or a reduced price credit report, you can buy one here for $11. Click here to see if you are eligible for a free or a reduced fee credit report.
Online Phone number: (800) 888-4213Mail:
TransUnion
2 Baldwin Place
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
Obtain a free, annual TransUnion Credit Report
Get your free annual credit report from annualcreditreport.com. Depending upon the state you live in or the reason of the request, you may be eligible for more than one free report in a year.
Online Phone number: (800) 888-4213Mail:Download mail order form
Dispute an item on your TransUnion Credit Report or check the status of an existing dispute. Online Phone number: (800) 916-8800 orget more the information about disputing over the phone.Mail

 

Need Solution
Place a Security Freeze on your TransUnion Credit Report Online Phone number: (888) 909-8872Mail or get more information about placing a Security Freeze on your TransUnion credit report by mail:
TransUnion
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
Place a Fraud Alert on your TransUnion Credit Report Email: fvad@transunion.com Phone number: (800) 680-7289Mail:
TransUnion
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
Learn about Credit Monitoring with TrueCredit.com Online Phone number: (800) 493-2392
Report fraud or identity theft Online Phone number: (800) 680-7289Mail:
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
Worried about Child Identity Theft? Online Phone number: (800) 680-7289Mail:
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834

 

Need Solution
Opt Out of Prescreened Marketing Offers Online at optoutprescreen.comPhone number: (888) 567-8688Mail:
TransUnion Name Removal Option
P.O. Box 505
Woodlyn, PA 19094