Having to deal with a credit crisis is a daunting idea no matter how big it is, and it is inevitably made worse by being forced to interact with the companies that are in control of our personal financial histories. The largest of these companies, often referred to as the “big three of credit reporting agencies,” are well known as corporate behemoths that are difficult to reason with, uncommunicative, and oftentimes highly irresponsible with the data they supposedly protect.
Before you take the intimidating step of contacting one of these agencies, take a few minutes to read over the information in this latest blog from the credit clean-up specialists at The Credit Rabbi.
Who Are The Big Three Credit Reporting Agencies?
Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the three major credit reporting agencies located in the United States. There are smaller CRAs that collect information on specific financial records, such as apartment rentals and retail credit cards, but they are not nearly as encompassing as the big three.
What Do They Track?
The information that each major credit bureau keeps on you will depend on what is sent to them by the lenders, businesses, and debt collectors that are dealing directly with your financial data. These groups are not required to send such info to the credit bureaus, and they may not even send it to all three, so keep in mind that a report on you from Equifax may show different data than a report from Experian or TransUnion. Even credit scores are impacted by this system — while your Experian score shows one set of numbers, your TransUnion score may be drastically different depending on the data they have received on you from their clients.
The big three credit bureaus track information such as:
- Your history of credit card and loan payments
- Credit card and loan balances
- The number and type of accounts under your name
- Your history of defaults, even if they’re paid off
Legally, the big three (along with smaller, more specialized credit bureaus) are allowed to circulate this information to:
- Utility providers
- Government agencies
- Debt buyers/collectors
- Banks/credit unions
- Insurance companies
- Credit card companies
- Utility providers
- Retail stores
- Payment processors
How The Big Three Deal With You
Considering the fact their relationships with the above organizations are heavily regulated by the government, it’s quite ironic that the big three CRAs are given a lot of leeway when dealing directly with you.
For example, a major complaint about the big three is that they are only required to give consumers one free credit report per year. Many financial experts argue that this is not nearly enough, and that reports should always be free to access by the very people they are reporting on. Unfortunately, CRAs are under no legal obligation to provide free access 24-7, so that means they are bound to charge for as much access as they can get away with. There are ways to get around this, however — financial institutions such as banks are able to provide free reports to their customers annually, and you are allowed a free report under the following conditions:
- You have been denied insurance or employment due to bad credit
- You have been denied credit from an institution
- Your need to report a fraud alert
- You suspect your credit report is inaccurate
- Your state allows free access
- You receive welfare benefits or are newly unemployed
There is better news for consumers, though it is only temporary: starting sometime in 2020 and going through 2026, everyone in the U.S. will be allowed to access their personal Equifax credit report up to six times per year, in addition to the annual free reports from each of the big three. We’re hoping that this federal regulation, brought about by the Equifax mass data theft of 2017, will eventually become permanent!
Another example that tends to bring up ire is the fact that none of the big three CRAs are under any obligation to actually fix inaccuracies in your credit report; they are only obligated to inquire about inaccuracies at your request. Essentially, what this means is that any organization that has reported false information to a CRA can verbally deny that any claim of inaccuracy is true, and they can do so without having to provide evidence. Consumer advocates have been railing against the lack of regulation in this area for years, and it’s not hard to understand why.
Important Things To Know About Checking Your Credit
Review all of your credit reports, not just one
If you’re doing an annual review of your credit history, make sure to check all three credit reports in order to get as much information as possible. As noted above, each of the big three CRAs may have different data on you, and this can negatively impact your credit and its related score. Checking all three at the same time will allow you to note any inconsistencies and will give you a clearer picture of what your overall credit looks like.
Pay Off Any Delinquent Balances When You Find Them
It is extremely important, especially for those of you who are in the market for a home mortgage or other kind of loan, that delinquent balances be paid off as soon as you find them on their credit report. Not only does this show good intention on your part, but it also means you won’t have to look at them again when your next annual check comes up!
For Help With The Bigger Credit Problems, Trust The Credit Rabbi
When you feel like you’ve exhausted all of your options and gone as far as your time and patience will allow in dealing with the big three credit reporting agencies, contact the credit recovery experts at The Credit Rabbi. Using an established system to check all three of your credit reports to remove any inconsistent or fraudulent accounts, The Credit Rabbi can help you drastically improve your personal credit.
In addition to checking for account inconsistencies, The Credit Rabbi can also scan your reports to make sure any other information is accurate and relevant, including entries related to bankruptcy and late payments.
Contact the credit restoration specialists at The Credit Rabbi today to get started!