There are three credit bureaus in America: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. I don’t particularly like credit bureaus on principle, but I kind of understand why they exist (as a form of risk-screening for lenders and other people doing background checks, like employers and apartment offices). So far my experience with Experian and Transunion has been perfectly fine.
However, over the years I have yet to have a truly positive experience with Equifax. Not one.
Why I am writing all this
The purpose of me writing up my extremely negative experience with Equifax is not to vent (the below is objective and impartial, as far as it has been in my power to make it so), but to warn people off from trusting Equifax’s competency as a credit bureau. Inasmuch as it is in your power, my personal experience suggests that you ought to rely on Equifax as little as possible, and that any other path is fraught with risk. This is a public service announcement of sorts, then.
A further purpose in me sharing my experiences here is to get across the point that if only one out of the three credit bureaus has severely messed up your information, you can probably successfully ignore them in getting a home loan. I very much wish I had myself known this from the outset, as I would have thereby avoided much wasted time and stress. Let me again repeat: if only one of the three credit bureaus has messed up your information, you probably won’t be doomed if you don’t bang your head against the wall trying to get them to fix it. (Although please do note: this is only my N=1 experience. I recommend you check with your specific local mortgage lenders to confirm).
With all this out of the way, here is a brief summary of my negative experiences with Equifax, and why I think you should trust them as little as possible:
Chapter 1: In which all of our data was leaked
Due to grossly substandard security practices, Equifax got hacked and leaked everyone’s data in 2017. (Note that Experian and TransUnion have not suffered any sort of equivalent data breaches). As an American, you cannot opt-out of their data collection, and the for-profit-corporation essentially makes money by acting as a leech in regards to your personal information. Not that I particularly want the federal government to have this power either (OMB itself got hacked as well, so it’s not like our information is necessarily safer there), but at least the government wouldn’t probably be so breathtakingly incompetent, even despite its soul-sucking bureaucracy.
You’d think such a huge preventable error would enable regulators to just straight up shut down the huge national security risk, but evidently not. You still, to this day, cannot get out of all your sensitive personal information getting sent to Equifax despite them having a track record of demonstrably failing to protect it in any meaningful capacity, and further, you cannot choose some alternative free-market-style as the three credit bureaus are a government-sanctioned corporate monopoly, for some reason unfathomable to me.
Post-2017, following Equifax’s large breach, my parents froze my credit to prevent identity theft.
Chapter 2: In which Equifax associates improper information with my account, with no recourse for me
2.1 Being completely locked out of my account due to their poorly designed support system
In Early 2020, after my graduation from college, I had to unfreeze my credit when applying for apartments and jobs. The thing is, Equifax themselves incorrectly entered the address where I stayed in college (or something like that – the address ended up wrong in their system), and it was thus impossible for me to access my Equifax account in any regard.
If I went through the online interface, it would say I needed to go through phone support. When I went through phone support, it would not ever let me talk to a human since the identity verification screening would reject the (correct) address I entered because it did not match the (incorrect) one that they had in their records. It would then tell me to access the online interface, which would then tell me to go through phone support… etc.
In this way, I could never talk to a human being to actually resolve the problem that they themselves created with my account. Somehow or other I called a support line that did not require automated verification to talk to a human, but no matter how quickly I explained on a call “Please don’t transfer me, I have a problem with my account that is preventing me from verifying myself, and need to talk to an actual person to sort things out,” I would be immediately and rudely transferred to the robocall interface. This happened several times (with me going through the whole phone interface to eventually get to a human, only to get instantly transferred back to the same interface) before I realized that given their apparent corporate policy of immediate transfer (regardless of what the customer says), there was actually no way for me to fix the issues with my account; there was no path through their support system by which my problems could be resolved.
2.2 Scans sent via snail mail still didn’t solve the problem
When I sent in scans of my birth certificate and social security card to verify my identity, it didn’t do anything at all (and I was never contacted in any way). This is despite Equifax asserting that this was the only way to clear up the situation. Note that I was resistant to sending personal information through the mail like this due to security concerns, but I was told that it was the only way to solve the problems with my account.
2.3 There was never any direct resolution to this issue
This issue was never actually directly resolved. Eventually I got an apartment since the background check that the apartment office ran successfully pulled my credit from the other two credit bureaus. Only after a few months when Equifax finally updated my current address could I then access my account to unfreeze my credit, which I no longer even needed to do as it was too late.
Chapter 3: In which Equifax fails to let me re-freeze my credit
At this point, I decided to unfreeze my credit anyway, while it seemed like I had access.
While apparently the freeze was lifted, it has since then been impossible for me to refreeze my credit, even though I am now done with everything it would be needed for. The online interface tells me that there is an error and to call a specific support number… which, in my experience, seems to connect you to people who actually lack the privileges necessary to freeze your credit. The times I have called and spoken with support personnel, not a single one has done anything helpful with regards to my account.
I have since then been continuously prevented from refreezing my credit.
Chapter 4: In which Equifax’s online interface has never worked for me even once, and I failed to receive a copy of my credit report from them
After I could finally login to my account, I was still not greeted with a working interface like that of the other two credit bureaus. To this day (June 2021, at time of writing), I am unable to see my credit report on Equifax’s website – it says that the report is “temporarily unavailable” and I need to call the support number. I have been round and again on phone support telling them that it is in fact their problem. My credit has been “temporarily unavailable” for 2+ years now.
To add salt to the wound, when I ordered my free annual credit report via the sanctioned government site, Experian and Transunion happily let me print off my credit reports with them as PDFs, but Equifax alone refused to do it online. To add even more salt to the wound, when I ordered my Equifax credit report over the phone system, despite being told by the automated system that the request was received and approved, I never got the credit report in the mail.
To this day I have never seen a single copy of my actual Equifax credit report. To be fair (full disclosure), I haven’t tried ordering another physical copy again since this point.
Chapter 5: In which Equifax fails to properly associate credit information with my file
5.1 Credit cards not showing up, in Equifax’s opinion
Now, I wouldn’t care so much if the information Equifax had about my credit accounts was accurate when others pull my credit (employers, apartment offices, and banks, for example). Unfortunately, Equifax fails to pick up on the credit cards I have had through Chase since 2016. Thus, when a local bank pulled my credit file when issuing me a new credit card, they said that I had no credit (a completely blank file), and stuck me with a very low credit limit because of this, despite my high income.
Across more than one call with support agents, Equifax blamed it on everyone but themselves. At first they said it must be that the bank pulled things wrong (unlikely in my estimation, given that it is their job). Then they said it was because my credit was frozen (even though my credit wasn’t even frozen at this point due to the above issues re-freezing it). Then it was Chase’s fault for “not sending them the credit information.” It is true that some banks only report to one credit bureau or another, but Chase automatically reports to all three. They are a massive bank.
5.2 Contrast Chase’s customer service
Within 15 minutes of being on the phone with Chase, I was connected to an extremely competent person who discussed the most likely possibilities as to what was going wrong. He said that Chase’s automated system could verify that Equifax’s system actually acknowledged receipt of Chase’s report. Once he learned that I was a computer programmer and understood more than the average person, we came to hypothesize about Equifax’s database system having a split customer record for me, meaning the information that Chase was sending was in fact ending up associated with some record, even if not the one that is connected to my Equifax login information. He suggested I talk to a supervisor on Equifax’s side and be a bit more pushy.
5.3 Getting ghosted by an Equifax supervisor
Following that advice, I suffered through a support call while politely but firmly asking to speak to a supervisor. The entire call, the support person tried to sell me a $20/month (or something like that) plan for monitoring my credit, assuring me that if only I paid Equifax money, I would be able to access my credit report properly. (Don’t forget that they already offer this service of continuously viewing your Equifax credit report free of charge, at least hypothetically – my personal experience hasn’t supported this claim of theirs). I almost laughed at the absurdity of it, and wondered if I recorded the conversation whether or not it would hold up in a court of law as extortion. To this day, I still kind of wonder if I had paid money at this juncture whether it would have actually fixed anything, or whether I would rather be out money with nothing more to show for it.
Once I finally got talking to a supervisor, I was overjoyed, as it finally seemed like I was talking to a competent person. We talked through all my issues (online interface not showing me my own Equifax credit report, missing credit cards, etc.), she apologized profusely, and she said she opened technical support tickets regarding the problems with my account. I tried to get a direct contact number for her, but apparently that is not corporate policy or somesuch. In any case, she promised she would call the phone number I gave her as soon as the support tickets came back from the technical guys. Here I was, optimistic that finally things would get straightened out, so I didn’t push too hard about getting a phone number or full name so that I would have a direct POC to bother to check on the status of my issues. After all, what sort of company would let supervisors promise to call customers back only to completely ghost them? That would be absolutely unsustainable as corporate practice… right?
Can you guess what happened? 10 points if you guessed “Steven got completely ghosted, and none of the issues ever got resolved.”
Chapter 6: In which Steven throws in the towel and pretends like Equifax doesn’t exist. Good riddance.
As 2021 rolled around, I had been on the phone trying to sort things out with Equifax for literally tens of hours. I was concerned as I started getting ready to buy a house, since a home loan is probably the most important credit-related event in one’s life. What was supremely irritating to me in all of this is that the only progress made in debugging the issues with my account (see the split record hypothesis, above) was made by me, the consumer. It shouldn’t even be my responsibility to fix issues with my Equifax credit report. It’s their job. In fact, it is more or less their only job. And thus far, my personal experience has suggested that they are not capable of doing it reliably.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when I got hung up on the middle of a call with Equifax support. I cannot for sure say that the support agent hung up on me intentionally, but it sure seemed like it, as we’d been talking in circles the entire time (although not for lack of me trying to steer the conversation towards where the actual issues were likely to be). I had been polite the entire time, just like I had always been polite despite the very poor treatment I had continually received.
I was rather shocked at this point (how in the world can they get away with continually treating people like this?), and essentially gave up on getting Equifax to ever resolve things on their end. It was at this time that I started doing serious research into whether or not you “really” need all three credit bureaus in good order to get a home loan.
After talking to a couple local lenders, it became clear to me that most lenders base their credit decisions off of a buyer’s top two credit scores. Basically, they told me that I could successfully ignore Equifax completely without it negatively affecting me.
It was around then that I regretted ever spending any time trying to fix my Equifax problems, since it seemed like after all that time, none of it mattered anyway.
In the aftermath, my Equifax credit is still completely hosed. I have been prevented from getting the Amazon credit card (5% back on all Amazon purchases) because it evidently only checks Equifax when coming to an issuance decision, but oh well. I have given up, and the money saved here is not worth the stress of me having to continue to deal with this company.
If an Equifax rep ever reads this, you are welcome to contact me to get the information necessary to fix my account. I will be more than happy to add a single positive interaction to this story.
If I were to try to continue to push forward on my end (like I would if I actually needed my Equifax credit report to be correct, like it might need to be a if an important non-negotiable lender only checks Equifax for whatever reason), I would escalate to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with a formal complaint against Equifax. I have read on the internet that if all else fails, it is sometimes possible to get issues with credit bureaus resolved with what amounts to threats. Since I have thus far been able to successfully ignore the existence of Equifax, I have no present plans to waste any more of my life trying to get them to do their job. It still might not work, after all, at which point I will have wasted even more of my time.
Let me again note that everything I have written about above is factual, as best I remember things: this has been a chronological account of all my experiences as they actually occurred, without exaggeration for rhetorical effect. The fact that I feel like I have to add this statement again to my mind demonstrates how serious the situation actually is. That is, the reason I sound so biased is because I have not listed a single positive interaction, which would tend to fly in the face of statistical probability. I wish I could say I am kidding, but I am not. I truly have not had a single positive experience with Equifax over the years, not one. And this is why my advice, based on my personal experience, is to avoid trusting or relying on this company in any important way, insofar as it depends on you.