Consumer Reporting Agencies Explained

Consumer reporting agencies are companies that regularly gather credit and other information about you.

They create reports based on that information, and provide the reports to other people or companies, within limits.

The definition of a consumer reporting agency under FCRA is:

“The term “consumer reporting agency” means any person which, for monetary fees, dues, or on a cooperative nonprofit basis, regularly engages in whole or in part in the practice of assembling or evaluating consumer credit information or other information on consumers for the purpose of furnishing consumer reports to third parties, and which uses any means or facility of interstate commerce for the purpose of preparing or furnishing consumer reports.”

They are sometimes called CRAs.

What Kind of Info Do CRAs Collect?

Consumer reporting agencies collect the kinds of info that can be useful in deciding some things. Like whether to grant credit or insurance, offer a job, accept someone as a tenant, etc.

So they can collect and report on info related to your:

  • credit worthiness
  • credit standing and capacity
  • character
  • general reputation
  • personal characteristics
  • mode of living (which is another way of saying the way you conduct your life)

Those are broad categories, so there can be a lot of info about you out there. Getting information about those last four bullet points usually means interviewing people who know you. In that case, the reports are called investigative reports.

Either way, as part of your rights under FCRA, you are allowed to know what’s in the reports if you ask for it. In some case you may have to pay a small fee, in other cases it will be free.

Examples of Consumer Reporting Agencies

Credit bureaus are probably the most familiar credit reporting agency. They create credit reports.

But those are just the tip of the iceberg. There are consumer reporting agencies that focus on checks and banking, like ChexSystems.

Some focus on risk assessment for health & life insurance, like MIB Group.

Others focus on employment background checks or tenant screening, property insurance, and so on.

You name it, and there’s probably a consumer reporting agency that collects data on it.

List of Consumer Reporting Agencies

Some of the consumer reporting agency names you may run into are:

  • Certegy Check Services
  • ChexSystems
  • Clarity Services
  • CoreLogic Credco
  • Early Warning Services
  • Equifax
  • Experian
  • FactorTrust
  • First Advantage
  • Innovis
  • LexisNexis Risk Solutions
  • MIB Group
  • National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange
  • SafeRent Solutions
  • TeleCheck Services
  • TransUnion
  • Universal Background Screening

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has an in-depth list and ways to contact them.

Summing Up

There are many consumer reporting agencies that regularly gather credit and other information about you. While credit bureaus are consumer reporting agencies, they are not the only kind.

Remember that you can (and should) get a copy of your file from them. (Especially if you’re having identity theft problems or are thinking of making a big financial, job, or other move.)

You want the info that’s out there about you to be right.

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