From May to July this year, criminal hackers broke into the computer servers of Equifax, one of three major credit reporting bureaus that keeps every American’s credit information, including names, addresses, social security numbers, credit histories, and more. On September 7th, Equifax announced that the attack took place and affected 44 percent of the US population, or virtually every adult with a credit history.
Anyone who is actively working to build or fix their credit is likely already familiar with Equifax, but many Americans have never heard of this company that was holding their most valued financial information. If you want to better understand who Equifax is, how over 140 million Americans’ personal data was leaked, and what you can do about it, follow along with this guide.
Who is Equifax?
In the United States, three large companies hold all of our credit data. These companies, also called the credit reporting bureaus, are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Even though we never hired or picked these companies, we are all their customer in some form.
These companies track and hold all of the information for our credit reports and credit scores. In fact, the information they hold is so important that the United States government requires them each to give you a free copy of your credit report annually. You can get your government mandated credit reports for free at annualcreditreport.com from all three bureaus.
Equifax is a public for-profit company. They claim to hold financial information on 800 million individuals and 88 million businesses worldwide. Headquartered in Atlanta, the company has nearly 10,000 employees. The company earns over $3 billion per year in revenue and made nearly half a billion in profits in 2016. It goes without saying: this is a big, influential company.
Each time you apply for a credit product or open a new credit account, Equifax keeps track. Every month when you make on-time or late payments on your credit cards, mortgages, lines of credit, personal loans, and other borrowing products, Equifax keeps track. They supply this information to banks and lenders in the form of credit reports and credit scores, which are used to approve you for new credit products.