We all know Equifax (EFX), TransUnion and Experian (EXP). I’ve written about them about a thousand times over the past decade. We credit types tend to focus on these guys for obvious reasons.
What you may not know is that these are not the only companies that are keeping an eye on you.
Let’s set this up…the Fair Credit Reporting Act actually doesn’t refer to Equifax, TransUnion and Experian as “credit reporting agencies.” They’re referred to as “consumer reporting agencies,” meaning they create reports for sale to third parties, which will be used as a basis for some sort of decision-making process. This is usually credit and employment but can also include things like insurance or housing.
The big three credit reporting agencies are not the only companies who do this. In fact, there are at least three more companies that have similar business models and maintain, own or otherwise profit from storing and selling your information to others. These companies are Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), Innovis Data Solutions, and ChoicePoint. Let’s dissect who they are, what they do, and how you can get a copy of what they have in their systems.
These guys are better known as CSC (which also happens to be their stock symbol). They are based in Virginia and do business in over 90 countries and across multiple industries, including consumer credit reporting. Their credit arm is known as CSC Credit Services and they are what is referred to as an independent consumer reporting agency or system affiliate.
They own a significant percentage of the credit files on the Equifax database, mostly belonging to consumers living in the Midwest and Central states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and five others. So for those of you living from Texas straight up to the Dakotas your credit file from Equifax is actually a CSC credit report. That means your CSC file is maintained and sold by Equifax but CSC does any disputes and disclosures, and shares in any revenue generated by the sale of your credit report.
If you suspect you live in a CSC state or zip code you can request a copy of your credit report for free once a year here.
These guys are commonly known as the “fourth credit bureau.” They used to be called CBC, which stands for the Credit Bureau of Columbus (Ohio). CBC used to be a very large Equifax system affiliate, much like CSC is currently. However, CBC chose to eventually stand on their own and further built out their own credit reporting database by acquisition.
Today they are a national credit bureau but their data would never be confused with the data provided by the big three. Point being, you have an Innovis credit report regardless of where you live but it’s not nearly as comprehensive as your other credit reports. Also, there is no FICO score for the Innovis credit report.
If you’d like to claim your free copy you can do so here.
These guys have an interesting history, especially for a credit junkie like me. Follow me on this SAT/ACT style analogy:
Equifax is to Lenders as ChoicePoint is to Insurance Companies and Employers. Many years ago, ChoicePoint was the insurance services division of Equifax and is now owned by Reed Elsevier (the London-based parent company of LexisNexis). They’re not a credit-reporting agency but a consumer-reporting agency.
They sell reports and scores to insurance companies and reports to employers who use that data to determine whether or not they want to hire you or insure you. ChoicePoint is also the poster child for corporate data breaches. In 2004 their database was breached not by hackers but by a group of fraudsters who set up what appeared to be legitimate insurance company accounts, which allowed to them to access ChoicePoint’s databases just as easily as any other legitimate insurance company.
The reports that ChoicePoint sells to insurance companies are called CLUE reports (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange). These are essentially a listing of any homeowner or auto insurance claims you’ve made in the past seven years. The scores they sell to insurance companies used to be called CP-Attract scores, and are now called LexisNexis Attract scores, given the new ownership of the company. They are designed to predict insurance risk.
In addition to the CLUE reports, they also sell reports to employers detailing your employment history. And, finally, they sell reports to landlords about your previous tenancy history. There are no scores with the employment or tenant reports. And, if no company has requested or reported anything to them, then your reports will be empty or clear. For example, I haven’t filed a homeowner or auto claim in the past seven years, so my CLUE reports are empty.
You can access you CLUE reports, your employment history report and your resident history report here.
John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and the author of the “credit history” definition on Wikipedia. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. He has served as a credit expert witness in more than 70 cases and has been qualified to testify in both Federal and State court on the topic of consumer credit.