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The data that the bureaus collect come from a variety of sources:

  1. Information reported to the bureaus by creditors. Creditors, such as banks and credit card issuers, may report information about their accounts and customers to the credit bureaus. In this context, the creditors are known as “data furnishers.”
  2. Information that’s collected or bought by the bureaus. For some types of information, the credit bureaus buy the data. For example, a consumer credit bureau might buy public records information from LexisNexis, another credit bureau, and use this information when generating your credit report. Examples of information that a credit bureau may buy include government tax liens or bankruptcy records.
  3. Information that gets shared among the bureaus. Although they are competitors, sometimes the credit bureaus must share information with one another. For example: When you place an initial fraud alert with one of the bureaus, it’s required to forward the alert to the other two.

Learn how to protect yourself from ID theft

Why might your credit reports and scores be different depending on the bureau?

If you look closely at your credit reports, you may notice some differences. One reason for this could be because creditors aren’t required to report information to the credit bureaus. Some may choose to report your account to only one or two of the bureaus, or to not report it at all.

Your credit scores could also be significantly different depending on which report your score is based on. This may be because of the potential differences in the data that make up each report.Read more: Why credit scores differ between credit reporting agencies

Other important credit bureaus

TransUnion®, Equifax® and Experian® may be the big three, but there are actually many consumer credit bureaus. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a list of dozens of consumer credit bureaus organized by the type of information they organize and provide.Common Question

What’s the difference between a credit bureau and a consumer reporting agency?

It’s a different name for the same thing. The Fair Credit Reporting Act refers to credit bureaus as consumer reporting agencies, or CRAs. It defines CRAs as organizations that collect or evaluate consumer information for the purposes of furnishing consumer reports and then either sell or cooperatively share those reports. CRAs are also sometimes called consumer reporting companies, or CRCs.

Check out the CFPB’s list to find the website, phone number and address for each of the credit bureaus, as well as brief descriptions of what they do and whether they provide a free report to consumers. Many do, but sometimes you need to call or mail in your request.