Equifax is the oldest and largest credit bureau in existence today. They were originally founded in 1898, 70 years before the creation of Trans Union.
Two brothers, Cator and Guy Woolford, created the company. Cator actually got the idea from his grocery business, where they collected customers’ names and evidence of credit worthiness. He then sold that list to other merchants to offset his own business costs.
The success led Cator and his attorney brother, Guy, to Atlanta to start what would become one of the most powerful industries in existence today.
Retail Credit Company was born, and local grocers started using the Woolford service, which 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, with nearly 300 branches in operation. They collected all kinds of consumer data, even rumors about people’s marital lives and childhood. 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, giving many more companies access to purchase this data. They also continued to purchase many more of their smaller competitors, becoming larger and also attracting the attention of our Federal government.
In response, the US Congress met in 1971, and enacted the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This new law was the first to govern the information credit bureaus and regulate what they were allowed to collect and sell. Equifax was charged with violating this law a few years later and even more government restrictions were implemented.
Equifax was no longer allowed to misrepresent themselves when conducting consumer investigations and employees were not given bonuses anymore based on the negative information they were collecting, which was standard practice in the past.
It is alleged that due to the tarnished reputation all this left on Retail Credit Company, they changed their name to Equifax (Equitable Factual Information) shortly after in 1979.
Throughout the 1980s, Equifax along with Experian and Trans Union, split up the rest of the smaller credit rating agencies amongst them, adding 104 of those to Equifax’s portfolio. They then continued to grow, taking aligning with CSC Credit Services and another 65 additional bureaus.
Equifax has continued to grow, now maintaining over 401 million consumer credit records worldwide. They also expanded their services to direct consumer credit monitoring in 1999.
Today Equifax is based out of Atlanta, Georgia, and has employees in 14 countries.