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Credit bureaus are private companies that maintain consumer credit data files and provide credit information to authorized users, for a fee. By becoming a member of a credit bureau, you can request credit reports on individuals and companies with whom you currently (or wish to) do business.
Being a member also allows you (in some cases, requires you) to report credit information on customers to help other members of the credit bureau in their business decisions.
Decide which of the credit bureaus you need by reviewing their websites.There are three main credit bureaus in the United States: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Each is easily found by typing their names into an internet search engine.
They each have reports on many of the customers a business may do business with, but they all do not have reports on everyone.
Consider sending the credit bureau a "test list" of clients. Credit bureaus generally want their members to be satisfied, so they allow test reports to be run to confirm a reasonable match between their database and your client list. You can send each a test list of clients in order to see how many "hits" or actual reports on your customers they already have in their databases.
Read their sites to see if you or your business qualifies for their membership criteria.
Keep in mind, credit bureaus will not sell their reports to businesses that they suspect will use the information for unauthorized purposes. Legitimate business uses are for existing customer inquiries and potential or prospective customer inquiries. Simply requesting credit reports on celebrities or companies for non-business or nefarious purposes is frowned upon and specifically prohibited in credit bureau contracts.
Contact each of the credit bureaus and request the membership criteria if you are not able to discern it on their websites, and apply for membersip to the bureau that best fits your needs.
Prepare to report on your customers' credit worthiness if approved for membership. The credit reports you wish to access are only as strong as the reports from members who supply them.
The various credit bureaus may have technical reporting requirements that your information must be formatted to use.
Pay your membership dues and reporting fees on time.
There is usually a membership fee that depends on the amount of credit reports you intend to purchase and then a per-report fee that again depends on the level of your membership. In some cases, if you will be providing credit information on a large number of customers, there may be a reduction in membership fees or some other fees because you are an information provider.
It is a good idea to ask for reports on your biggest customers if you are just starting to build credit information.
If you require a different credit report solely on businesses, then seek out Dun & Bradstreet, a company that specializes in business-to-business credit reporting.
Information from credit bureaus should be used only for fair and legal business uses, and not for any other purpose.
James C. Rawley is a Canadian born and raised with an outsider's eye on the United States of America. He possesses a History and Political Science educational background married to a voracious reader and omnivorous intellect combined with a childlike wonder of all things. Mr. Rawley has written since college. Mr. Rawley's work has appeared on the internet and in print most recently in rwww.redpress.com