The three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs) are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. These are the credit bureaus which the lender goes to in order to extract your credit information. They are primarily responsible for compiling details of your credit history and create a report from it. Thereafter, that report administers your risk assessment for future loans or credit cards.
Basically, these bureaus are not owned by the government, rather are non-profit agencies that have good relationships with banks and other financial organizations. Credit Reports consolidates your existing credit account along with your payment history. They collect information from banks, credit card or mortgage companies. In addition to that, they also process data from telephone and other utility companies. Certain factors include the payment history, type of credit account, magnitude of debt, length of credit, and other similar hard inquiries.
The integrated data is generated as a credit report and sold to the lenders, to determine the creditworthiness of their borrowers. Credit bureaus keep the personal information indefinitely that can include name, address, and a strong credit history. There is a list of some negative information too that can stay on their slate for somewhere between 7-15 years, such as bankruptcy, charge-offs, closed accounts, collection accounts, late payments, judgments, and tax liens.
All of these three credit bureaus are independent of each other, and neither share nor communicate any information. A credit report expert can help you deal with inaccuracies in case you detect any. That can individually be done by contacting the agencies separately via their websites or mail to dispute misinformation. It must be essentially done to avoid any identity theft.
The federal law of the United States has permitted you to obtain a copy of your credit report from the agencies for free, once in a year. It is this credit report that is used to calculate the FICO score- simply a numerical interpretation of credit worthiness.