Because your credit report and your credit score are such important components in qualifying for loans and credit — and determining the interest rate you may be offered when borrowing — it can be beneficial to understand where your information is stored, how it’s collected, and how to keep it safe in case of a data breach.
This guide is designed to help you learn more about Equifax, one of the “big 3” credit bureaus in the United States. It also provides information on the recent Equifax data breach, and offers helpful steps you can take if you feel your data has been compromised.
What Is Equifax?
Equifax describes itself as:
“A global information solutions company that uses unique data, innovative analytics, technology, and industry expertise to power organizations and individuals around the world by transforming knowledge into insights that help make more informed business and personal decisions.”1
Along with Experian and TransUnion, Equifax is considered one of the big 3 credit bureaus that operate in the United States, as well as in numerous countries around the world.
This large corporation is a member of the S&P (Standard & Poor’s) 500 Index, and the company’s stock shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Where Equifax Operates
Although Equifax has its main headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, the company actually operates in 24 different countries in North, Central, and South America, as well as in Europe and the Asia Pacific region.
Areas served by Equifax include:
- United States
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- United Kingdom
- Uruguay (2)
Your Credit Report & Credit Score With Equifax
To access your Equifax credit report and credit score, you can go directly through Equifax and request the report and score details here.
This service costs $15.95, and the information will remain active for 30 days once your purchase and payment are completed. If you opt for this service, you’ll be able to view your Equifax credit report and credit score, as well as get a summary of both the positive and negative factors that may be impacting your credit score.3
In addition, you will be able to access Equifax customer service representatives who can provide advice on how to raise your credit score, how to file a dispute regarding incorrect information, and other important tips.
Because not all lenders and creditors report information to all 3 of the big credit bureaus, the details you find in your Equifax credit report may differ from the information in your Experian or TransUnion reports. Therefore, it can be beneficial to review your credit report from all 3 of the credit bureaus at least once per year.
In addition to going directly through Equifax, there are other ways to view your credit report and score — and many of these options are free! For instance, there are several third-party websites that provide credit advice, as well as access to your credit information. These include:
How to Access Your Equifax Free Report
All U.S. consumers are allowed to receive 1 free credit report each year from each of the 3 big credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To access these free reports, go to this site.
If, however, you have been denied credit or a loan, the Fair Credit Reporting Act mandates that you be sent an adverse action letter that outlines the reason(s) you were turned down.
This letter must also provide you with details on how you can obtain a free copy of the credit report that was used in making this determination.
You will have 60 days from the time you receive the adverse action letter to ask for your credit report, and this report can only be from the credit bureau listed in the letter. This free report is in addition to the free credit reports you are allowed from the 3 big credit bureaus each year.
If the information was based on an Equifax credit report, you can contact the company directly by calling 1-877-322-8228. You will go through a process of verifying your identity over the phone, and then your credit report will be mailed to you within 15 days.
You can also request your free credit report from Equifax via postal mail or online. If you choose to do so by mail, you can send your request to Equifax at:
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
To request your Equifax credit report copy online, fill out the necessary information by visiting the page here.
What Equifax Does With Your Information
In addition to providing consumers information about their credit reports and scores, Equifax is also a large-scale data aggregator, data broker, and analytics company that collects, analyzes, and derives insights from data (its own, as well as data collected from other sources).4
One of Equifax’s primary activities is selling consumer information to banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions that would lend money or extend credit to consumers and businesses.5
As an example, MasterCard could purchase a list of potential customers who are 30-35 years old and have credit scores above 700. Once the company has this information, it can send out pre-approved credit card offers in hopes of obtaining more customers.
This information can make it easier for lenders and creditors to determine how risky it may be to extend credit or a loan to a consumer. The information provided by Equifax (as well as the other credit bureaus) shows whether an individual has been late paying a bill and/or has ever defaulted on a loan.6
Equifax also provides information to insurance companies, which can help insurers obtain more details on applicants for coverage. This information includes data on health, habits, morals, use of vehicles, and finances.
In addition, Equifax provides commercial credit reports (similar to Dunn & Bradstreet) that contain both financial and non-financial data on businesses of all sizes.7
How Your Data Is Collected by Equifax
Equifax uses a number of sources to collect data about consumers.
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) estimates that there are approximately 10,000 different companies and sources that report information about you to the credit bureaus. However, some industry experts say that figure could be much higher (closer to 30,000).8
Information about you is also readily available via public records and/or collection items, such as details regarding a previous bankruptcy you may have filed, or any government tax liens and civil judgments you may owe.
In addition, Equifax provides and collects data through the NCTUE (the National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange), an exchange of non-credit data including consumer payment history on telecommunications and utility accounts.9
What If Your Information Is Incorrect?
It has been estimated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that approximately 1 in 5 Americans have mistakes on their credit reports, so having inaccurate information on your report is not all that uncommon.
Unfortunately though, these incorrect or missing details can be serious enough to lower your credit score, result in less attractive credit terms, or even cause the denial of loans or credit altogether.
There could also be inaccurate personal information found on your Equifax credit report, such as your name, address, Social Security Number, or employment details. This, too, needs to be corrected in order to reflect properly in your credit file.
The good news is that you can file a dispute with Equifax if you find any wrong or missing information in your credit report. Doing so can often result in having the information revised so it more accurately reflects your credit history and habits.
Hot Tip: If you do find any incorrect information on your Equifax credit report, it’s possible the inaccuracies could also be included on your credit reports from Experian and/or TransUnion. So it can be beneficial to check your credit report from these other bureaus as well.
How to File a Dispute With Equifax
There are a few ways you can file a dispute with Equifax, including:
- Filing online
- Contacting them via phone
- Sending a dispute letter via U.S. mail (along with copies of any supporting documents related to the issue)
If you decide to file a dispute with Equifax online, you can begin the process by going to this page. There you will be asked for information such as your name, address, and Social Security number to verify your identity.
You will also need to include a 10-digit confirmation number, which can be found on your Equifax credit file. If you have any supporting documents that may help you prove the information on your credit report is incorrect, you can upload them directly to Equifax.
If you opt to file your dispute with Equifax via phone, you can contact Equifax at 1-866-349-5191. This number will take you directly to the Equifax dispute line.
You can also submit a dispute letter by U.S. mail. Be sure to provide Equifax with all key details, including copies of any supporting documentation you may have.
The Equifax dispute address is:
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Typically, Equifax will need the following information from you in order to proceed with a dispute:
- Your full name
- Your birth date
- Your Social Security Number
- The address(es) where you have resided over the past 2 years
- Copy of a government-issued identification card (such as your driver’s license)
- Copy of a utility bill, bank, or insurance statement
- Description of the item (or items) you believe are inaccurate on your Equifax credit report
Regardless of how you choose to file a dispute, Equifax may request that you forward various information to help with their investigation. Such items may include some or all of the following:
- Your driver’s license
- Your birth certificate
- A utility bill copy (to prove your residence address)
- Bank statement
- Proof that a transaction was the result of identity theft
- Letter(s) from a lender that shows an account or information has been corrected
- Bankruptcy schedule(s) and/or related court documents
- Student loan disability letter(s)
- Canceled checks (10)
Typically, the process of disputing information and having it corrected (if applicable) can take up to 30 days. While your Equifax dispute is in progress, you can check the status at any time. You can do so by first going to the Equifax Online Dispute Form and submitting the requested information to verify your identity. There is no charge to file a dispute with Equifax.
Hot Tip: It can also be helpful if you directly contact the lender or creditor that supplied Equifax with the inaccurate information. When you do so, be sure to ask if the lender or creditor has any documentation that shows what actually transpired in the disputed transaction.
If you can get the situation worked out directly with the lender or creditor and they make an adjustment to the information, it’s still a good idea to contact Equifax and request that the information be updated on your credit report.
What Other Services Does Equifax Offer?
In addition to providing access to your credit report and score, there is a long list of other products and services offered through Equifax. These include the following:
Equifax provides a great deal of information directly on its website with regard to credit, credit reports, and credit protection. This includes articles, reports, and videos on how to keep your personal and credit information safe, what to look for on your credit report, and how to increase your credit score so you can more easily qualify for loans, credit, and more attractive interest rates. Access this information by visiting the Equifax Personal Education area of the company’s website.
Equifax Fraud Alert and Active Duty Alert
If you feel you’ve been a victim of fraud or identity theft, you can request that Equifax place a fraud alert on your credit report. This type of alert can let lenders and creditors know you may have been a victim of fraud.
An active duty alert will inform lenders and creditors of a consumer’s active duty military status. If there are any unauthorized attempts to open an account and/or apply for a loan or credit line, it will alert the creditor or lender that you are on military leave and the request could be fraudulent.
Each of these types of fraud alert will require that a lender or creditor take certain steps to verify your identity before they establish any new account in your name, increase your credit limit, or issue an additional credit card on an existing account.
You can easily request an initial 90-day fraud or active duty alert on your Equifax credit report by going to the Equifax Fraud Alert/Active Duty Alert page.
Due in large part to the increase in identity theft over the past several years, Equifax offers identity protection services and advice. This information from Equifax can be accessed by going to Equifax’s Top Identity Theft Articles.
Equifax Credit Freeze/Lock & Alert
Both a lock and a security freeze can help prevent unauthorized access to your Equifax credit report. With a credit freeze, you have more control over how and when a credit bureau is able to sell your personal data.
As an example, before the credit bureau may provide your information to anyone, you must first give permission to do so.
A credit freeze can be a viable method of helping you prevent becoming a victim of identity theft, since many hackers will open credit in their victims’ names.
But because a credit freeze stops access to your credit report, it can block the process of issuing new credit to you as well. So it’s important to understand that if you place a freeze on your credit, the freeze will need to be lifted if you want to apply for a loan or other type of new credit for yourself.
Equifax also offers a credit lock and alert service where you’re essentially able to click or swipe to lock or unlock your credit report. This can make the process of applying for new credit for yourself much more convenient, while at the same time helping block access by an unauthorized user.
Education and Resources for Consumers
Equifax also provides more in-depth education and resources for consumers directly on its website. This information includes tips on how to understand your credit report, how credit scores are used in your everyday life, and how your financial behavior can impact your credit.
To access this information and more, go to the Equifax Personal Education area by clicking here.
Equifax Business Services
In addition to products and services that are helpful to consumers, Equifax provides various business-related offerings that can help companies securely find and service more customers.
Businesses have credit histories just like individual consumers. Through Equifax, companies can obtain a business credit report on themselves, as well as on other companies in the U.S. and Canada.
Further information, webinars, case studies, and reports offered by Equifax to businesses may be accessed by visiting the Equifax Business Resources page.
Equifax Business Customer Support can be contacted by phone directly at 1-800-685-5000.
The 2017 Equifax Hack
In the fall of 2017, it was announced that Equifax had fallen victim to a massive data breach. Based on information from Equifax, this breach occurred between mid-May and July of 2017.
During this time, hackers accessed consumers’ names and addresses, as well as more sensitive personal data such as birth dates and Social Security Numbers.
In addition, approximately 209,000 people had their credit card numbers compromised during this attack, and roughly 182,000 individuals had their personal data accessed via the hacking of dispute documents that contained personal identifying information.11
Further investigation showed that approximately 2.4 million U.S. consumers had partial driver’s license information compromised.
The Equifax hack was not just contained to consumers in the United States — information from individuals in Canada and the UK was also compromised. While there is no way to completely eliminate the threat of identity theft, Equifax has taken steps to assist consumers who may have had their data stolen.
Hot Tip: For more (and continuously updated) details regarding the 2017 Equifax hack, as well as information about what you can do if you feel you were affected by this data breach, go to the 2017 Cybersecurity Incident and Important Consumer Education page.
How Consumers May Have Been Impacted by the Equifax Data Breach
It is estimated that more than 143 million American consumers may have been affected by the data breach at Equifax; if you have a credit report, chances are good you could be a victim.12
Consumers who feel they may have been impacted by the Equifax data breach can take some steps to help protect their information and lessen the chance that personal data is misused.
First, you can visit equifaxsecurity2017.com, a website created by Equifax for the sole purpose of assisting consumers who may have been affected by the 2017 breach. Once you’re on this site, click on the tab labeled “Potential Impact” to determine whether your information was exposed.
Then, enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your Social Security number. The site will notify you about whether your information was compromised. (Be sure to access this website on a secure computer to ensure better protection of the information you provide.)
In some cases (for example, if your driver’s license was compromised), Equifax will be notifying you via U.S. mail, as well as offering identity theft protection and credit file monitoring services at no cost.13
Equifax Security Today
Today, Equifax employs strong security and confidentiality standards on the data it provides as well as who can access it. Equifax strives to maintain a highly sophisticated data information network, which includes advanced security, protection, and redundancies.14
The Equifax network is reviewed continually by external security experts who conduct intrusion testing, vulnerability assessments, on-site inspections, and policy/incident management reviews.15
Each year, Equifax completes an SAS 70 Type ll audit and receives TruSecure’s accredited security certification. In addition, Equifax also conducts internal security reviews on a weekly basis.16
When sending and receiving information, Equifax relies on ePort, a system that uses 128-bit Secure Socket Layer (SSL; a web standard) to protect, secure, and encrypt confidential data being transmitted over the Internet to and from Equifax’s secure servers. The information is then only decrypted by Equifax.17
How to Contact Equifax Customer Service
For help with questions about your Equifax credit report or any other products/services offered by Equifax, contact their customer service team by calling 1-888-548-7878. Hours of operation are between 8:00 a.m. and midnight Eastern 7 days a week.
Equifax customer support representatives are also available for online chat between 8:00 a.m. and midnight (Eastern) Monday through Friday.
If you are a consumer or business in the U.S., it’s likely that at least some of your information is contained in the Equifax database.
In order to determine whether or not this information is correct (and ensure lenders and creditors are receiving the most up-to-date details about you), it’s important to obtain a copy of your credit report and review it at least once each year.
To help reduce your likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud, it can also be beneficial to consider some or all of the credit and identity protection services that are available.