Experian plc is an Irish-domiciled multinational consumer credit reporting company. Experian collects and aggregates information on over one billion people and businesses including 235 million individual U.S. consumers and more than 25 million U.S. businesses.
Based in Dublin, Ireland, the company operates in 37 countries with offices in Brazil, the United Kingdom, the United States. The company employs approximately 17,000 people and reported revenue for 2018 of US$4.6 billion. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. Experian is a partner in the U.K. government’s Verify ID system and USPS Address Validation. It is one of the “Big Three” credit-reporting agencies, alongside TransUnion and Equifax.
In addition to its credit services, Experian also sells decision analytic and marketing assistance to businesses, including individual fingerprinting and targeting. Its consumer services include online access to credit history and products meant to protect from fraud and identity theft. Like all credit reporting agencies, the company is required by U.S. law to provide consumers with one free credit report every year.
The company was established in the United States as TRW Information Systems and Services Inc., a subsidiary of TRW Inc., when it acquired Credit Data in 1968. In November 1996, TRW sold the unit, as Experian, to Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners. Just one month later, the two firms sold Experian to The Great Universal Stores Limited in Manchester, England, a retail conglomerate with millions of customers paying for goods on credit (later renamed GUS).
The Great Universal Stores Limited had employed John Peace, a computer programmer, to combine mail order data from various of its subsidiaries and businesses to create a central database. This database was later added electoral roll data as well as county court judgements. In 1971, the original computerized software was created at Midland Household Stores (MHS), part of the retail sector of GUS. GUS’s database was designed by John Edwards and programmed by Richard Brown. In 1980, the software was commercialized under the name Commercial Credit Nottingham (CCN). In 1996, The Great Universal Stores Limited acquired Experian.
During the next ten years, Experian expanded beyond financial services, and entered new markets such as Latin America, Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe. In October 2006, Experian was demerged from the British company GUS and listed on the London Stock Exchange.
In August 2005, Experian accepted a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges that Experian had violated a previous settlement with the FTC. The FTC alleged that ads for the “free credit report” did not adequately disclose that Experian customers would automatically be enrolled in Experian’s $79.95 credit-monitoring program.
In January 2008, Experian announced that it would cut more than 200 jobs at its Nottingham office.
Experian shut down its Canadian operations on 14 April 2009.
In March 2017, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined Experian $3 million for providing invalid credit scores to consumers.
In May 2018, Experian and Mitek formed a partnership to add identity document verification and biometric facial matching to its digital identity verification software.
In the United States, like the other major credit reporting bureaus, Experian is chiefly regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, signed into law in 2003, amended the FCRA to require the credit reporting companies to provide consumers with one free copy of their credit report per 12-month period. Like its main competitors, TransUnion and Equifax, Experian markets credit reports directly to consumers. Experian heavily markets its for-profit credit reporting service, FreeCreditReport.com, and all three agencies have been criticised and even sued for selling credit reports that can be obtained at no cost.
Its market segmentation tool, Mosaic, is used by political parties to identify groups of voters. In the British version there are 15 main groups, broken down into 89 hyperspecific categories, from “corporate chieftains” to “golden empty-nesters” which can be taken down to the level of individual postcodes. It was first used by the Labour Party, but then taken up by the Conservatives in the 2015 General Election campaign.
Sales to identity thieves
In 2013 a Vietnamese national, Hieu Minh Ngo, was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with attempting to sell personally identifiable information on hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents. This information had been allegedly purchased from Experian subsidiary and data aggregator Court Ventures. However Ngo testified under oath that the information he had sold to identity thieves had actually been acquired from another hacker based out of Russia, and not Experian or Court Ventures. Ngo then resold the information he acquired from the Russian hacker through the identity fraud enabling websites Superget.info and Findget.me. The information offered for anonymous sale on these websites included individual’s name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, place of work, duration of work, state driver’s licence number, mother’s maiden name, bank account number(s), bank routing number(s), email account(s) and other account passwords.
2015 data breach
On 1 October 2015 Experian announced that they had discovered a data breach existing between 1 September 2013 and 16 September 2015. As many as 15 million people who used the company’s services, among them customers of American cellular company T-Mobile who had applied for Experian credit checks, may have had their private information exposed.
IT expert Dr. Duane Thresher[failed verification] previously pointed out,[when?] HealthCare.gov was launched in Oct 2013, after Experian had been hacked, and used Experian for identity verification (authentication). Thus, most of the millions who signed up at HealthCare.gov may have had their private information exposed to hackers.[better source needed]
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