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Published By Credit Suite at January 29th, 2016
Want to learn some compelling Equifax tidbits?
Many people don’t know that Equifax is the oldest consumer credit reporting agency in the country. They were founded back in 1898. And this was a full 70 years before the creation of Trans Union.
Two brothers, Cator and Guy Woolford, created the company. So Cator actually got the idea from his grocery business, where he collected customers’ names and evidence of credit worthiness. He then sold that list to other merchants to offset his own business costs
The success of this tactic led Cator and his attorney brother, Guy, to Atlanta. This is where they set up what would become one of the most powerful industries in existence today.
The Retail Credit Company was born, and local grocers quickly started using the Woolford service. It expanded rapidly. By the early 1900s the service had expanded from grocers to the insurance industry.
Retail Credit Company continued to grow into one of the largest credit bureaus. By the 1960s, they had nearly 300 branches in operation. They collected all kinds of consumer data, even rumors about people’s marital lives and childhoods. They were also scrutinized for selling this data to just about anyone who would buy it.
In the late ’60s, Equifax started to compile their data onto computers. So this gave many more companies access to this data. But that was if they chose to buy it. They also continued to buy up many more of their smaller competitors. So they became larger and also attracted the attention of the Federal government.
They began to earn a bad reputation for selling data to anyone who wanted it. And this was whether or not the data was accurate. Equifax was gathering details about people including their marital troubles, jobs, school history childhood, sex life, political activates, and more. So there was no limit to the kind or amount of data they were collecting.
Some of the information was factual, while large swathes of the rest were completely false; some information was literally no more than rumors. There were even rumors that Equifax would reward their employees for finding the most negative information about consumers.
In response, when the United States Congress met in 1971, it enacted the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This new law was the first to govern the information credit bureaus. And it created regulations on what they were allowed to collect and sell.
Equifax no longer had permission to misrepresent itself when conducting consumer investigations. And its employees no longer earned bonuses on the basis of the negative information they were collecting. Because that was the standard practice in the past.
So Equifax has a very interesting past. Most notably, they were the first bureau to gather credit data. And, their tactics for gathering data had one consequence. They in large part led to the actual creation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act itself.
Check out the video below to learn even more about Equifax. And check out our most recent article on Equifax.
On February 10, 2020, the Boston Globe reported that Attorney General William Barr and the United States Justice Department were charging four members of China’s military on suspicion of the 2017 hack into Equifax. The Attorney General noted there have been any number of data theft by the Chinese military in recent years. These thefts have been of sensitive information such as identifying American intelligence officers. One use of Equifax‘s financial data could be to find out if any intelligence officers have money issues – and would thereby be subject to bribery or blackmail. Stay tuned as we continue to follow this story.