This is a good question. I joined Experian Direct, which provides my Experian score and report as well as updates on my other two reports (no scores or reports though just updates). Every now and then, I purchase the 3 reports and scores from Experian. I like to think that they are the actual scores that lenders see, but I’m not really sure. I have purchased scores and reports separately from the other two agencies and they have coincided with the ones I get from Experian (not sure if it was a coincidence or not).
My Experian score right now is 673, my Equifax I believe is 655. A few months ago I was denied for a retail store card offered by HSBC. I later found out they pulled Equifax, which is the lowest score of the three I have. I thought I had a chance ’cause my score I believe is not that bad, I guess I was wrong. I also didn’t know they pulled Equifax. I later read that HSBC can be picky, so who knows, maybe you were just denied because of your score. I don’t remember what they told me, but they’ll send you a letter explaining why they denied you.
In the mean time, I’ll try to find more information about who provides real scores.