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Credit reporting agency

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Definition

A credit reporting agency (also credit bureau) is a company that collects information from various sources and provides consumer credit information on individual consumers for a variety of uses. It is an organization providing information on individuals borrowing and bill paying habits. This helps lenders assess creditworthiness, the ability to pay back a loan, and can affect the interest rate and other terms of a loan.

Overview

"Traditionally, CRAs include credit bureaus, employment background screening companies, and other specialty companies that provide particularized services for making consumer eligibility decisions, such as check authorizations or tenant screenings. Some data brokers may also be considered CRAs subject to the FCRA, particularly if they advertise their services for eligibility purposes."[1]

In the United States, credit reporting agencies collect and collate personal information, financial data, and other data on individuals from a variety of sources called data furnishers with which the agency has a relationship. Data furnishers are typically creditors, lenders, utilities, debt collection agencies and the courts (i.e. public records) that a consumer has had a relationship or experience with.

Data furnishers report their payment experience with the consumer to the credit reporting agency. The data provided by the data furnishers as well as collected by the agency are then aggregated into the credit agency's database. The resulting information is made available on request to customers of the credit agency for the purposes of credit assessment, credit scoring or for other purposes such as employment consideration or leasing an apartment.

Given the large number of consumer borrowers, these credit scores tend to be mechanistic. To simplify the analytical process for their customers, the different credit agencies can apply a mathematical algorithm to provide a score the customer can use to more rapidly assess the likelihood that an individual will repay a given debt given the frequency that other individuals in similar situations have defaulted.

References

  1. Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?: Understanding the Issues, Executive Summary.

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