Credit scores and credit reports are very important – they are one of the things lenders consider when assessing your credit application. So any error should be taken seriously and investigated immediately.
Depending on the error, you could find it difficult to get approved for new loans, pay higher interest rates or even get your rental applications denied.
In this post, we’ll look at:
- how to check your credit report for errors in Canada
- the things to look out for
- correcting errors on your credit report
- reporting cases of potential frauds and confirmed frauds; and
- some tips on how to protect yourself.
Let’s get started…
Check For Errors On Your Credit Report
One of the advantages of checking and monitoring your credit report periodically is that it lets you detect an error or fraud quickly.
Some errors to look out for are:
- Inquiries or credit accounts in your credit report you never applied for
- Errors about your payment history, for example a payment reported as late when you paid on time or had a payment deferral agreement with the creditor.
- Incorrect personal information such as date of birth, mobile number, or address
- Negative information staying beyond the expected period.
Once you have checked and identified an error, you should know that not all errors are because of a fraud. They could simply be administrative errors. Nevertheless, you need to take an appropriate action to correct them immediately.
See below for details on how to correct and report errors and fraudulent activities on your credit report
How To Correct An Error On Your Credit Report
Both credit bureaus in Canada are obligated by law to verify any information on your credit report if you dispute it.
To correct any error on your credit report, follow these steps:
- Do your part and gather all the information that will support your case
Also, you’ll need to provide some personal information to verify your identity, such as a valid driver’s license, birth certificate or utility bills.
Depending on the information you’re disputing, get all relevant documents, statements and receipts. For example, bankruptcy discharge, police report or other document to show you were a victim of fraud and so on
- Contact the Creditor
If there’s an error on the information a creditor reported to the credit bureaus, you can contact them and request for the information to be corrected.
This could be a faster way to correct your credit report errors than going to Equifax or TransUnion directly.
- Get in touch with the Credit Bureaus.
The requirements may be slightly different but it’s generally the same process.
You can contact them online, through phone or by mail. To get started with the process, check out the dispute resolution pages for Equifax and TransUnion.
The link has the details of the documents that you will need to submit for each credit bureau.
Once your request is received, they will contact the affected creditor to verify the information you provided. Your credit report will be updated to reflect the correct information and your credit score adjusted accordingly if the creditor confirms your position.
Otherwise, your credit report will be left unchanged.
The process will take between 5-20 days with Equifax and you can expect a similar timeline with TransUnion.
If you didn’t get the outcome you were expecting, you can escalate the issue by filing a customer complaint against your financial institution with the Federal or Provincial Consumer Affairs Offices.
- Include a Customer Statement on your Credit Report
If all your efforts to update or correct the information fail, you can request to add a statement to your credit report. The statement may be used by new lenders to understand your position and may be considered in their decision to approve your credit application.
You can add up to 100 words on your TransUnion credit report (or 200 words in Saskatchewan) or 400 characters on Equifax.
How To Report A Fraud And Correct Your Credit Report
Fraud cases are more common than you think. In 2019, there were over 46,000 reported cases of Fraud in Canada, with about $98 million lost.
To report and resolve an error related to a fraud, the process varies depending on whether a fraud has been confirmed or not.
If you were a victim of a break-in, lost a wallet or purse or see any suspicious activity on your credit report, you may be a potential victim of fraud.
There is no confirmed case of fraud yet, but you should still take steps to protect yourself.
Equifax’s Identity Alert
With the Identity Alert, you can include a personal statement and your phone number on your credit report. Any lender that pulls your credit report will see it and be prompted to call to confirm that you’re the one making the loan application.
In Ontario and Manitoba, the law requires the lenders to call you. Unfortunately, they are only encouraged and not obligated to contact you in the other provinces and territories.
To place the alert on your credit report, you can use any of the 3 available options: Phone ( 1-800-465-7166), fax (1-514-355-8502 ) or by mail.
Equifax does not charge for this service. The alert will remain in place for 6 years, but you can request for it to be removed any time by submitting a request accompanied with 2 pieces of ID.
TransUnion’s Potential Fraud Alert
It’s a similar process to Equifax but you may be charged $5 plus tax to have the alert on your credit report. When I had a break-in, I was able to speak with a customer service agent to place the request, but I was not charged for the service.
You can also place an alert on your Social Insurance Number (SIN) for an additional $1.
TransUnion has a paid, subscription-based, credit monitoring service that lets track and monitor your credit report and credit score. You can get it for $1 for the first 7 days and cancel anytime. It renews afterwards at $19.95 per month.
You may consider using the service for a few months especially after cases of confirmed frauds.
Confirmed Cases of Fraud
If there’s a confirmed case of fraud, you can follow the steps below to both report it and stop further fraudulent use of your information.
1. Request for your credit report from both Equifax and TransUnion.
Identify any unauthorized inquiry or credit application and inform both the lender or creditor and the credit bureaus.
2. Place a Fraud alert on your credit report
The alert is like the potential fraud alert discussed above. It will warn any creditor to contact you before the approve any new credit facilities.
Again, the creditors are not obligated to contact you depending on your province.
3. Contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to report the incident.
A report can be filed online or through their toll-free number (1-888-495-8501)
Also report the incidence to the Police to get a police report.
4. Contact Service Canada and inform them that your social insurance number may have been compromised.
5. Inform your financial institutions
Get in touch with all your financial institutions. Inform them that your personal information may be compromised. Stop your cheques especially if it’s been stolen.
You may need a copy of the police report. Make sure you keep a record of all your interaction and communication.
6. Keep following up till the issue has been resolved and continue to monitor your credit report
Some Early Signs That You May Be A Victim Of Fraud
If you were a victim of a break-in or lost your wallet, it’s prudent to assume that you could be a potential fraud victim.
In some other cases, your information may have been compromised without you knowing.
Here are some early signs that may indicate you are a victim of fraud:
- You see an inquiry on your credit file for a credit application you did not apply for
- Your credit report has a credit account you never opened
- One or more of your credit cards include transactions you don’t recognize
- You stopped receiving some mails, for example your credit card statements. It could be an indication that your address has been changed fraudulently
- You received statements (utility, telephone or credit card) for things you never applied for
- You got approved or denied for a credit you did not request.
Simple things you can do to minimize the chances of becoming a fraud victim:
- Properly discard any statement or document that has any of your sensitive information. Shred into small pieces before throwing out. If possible, switch all statements to electronic copies
- Order your credit score and credit report periodically. Check for suspicious, unknown, or unauthorized records. If you found any, take steps to protect yourself from further harm.
- Don’t discard any document with personal sensitive information in a public trash.
- Limit the number of documents you have in your wallet. Store your SIN, passport, birth certificate and other documents with sensitive information in a safe place at your house.
- When in public, never leave your wallet or bag unattended.
- Always scan your statements for suspicious activities
- Almost never give out your sensitive information over the phone, especially if you didn’t place the call. You are not sure who is on the other side.
- Keep your documents and sensitive information locked and secured in a safe place at home.
- TransUnion’s Fraud Victims Resources
- Credit Report Disputes
- Canadian Anti-fraud Centre
- Protect yourself from Scam
No, you can’t. Your credit score is based on the information in your credit report. If you believe the information is incorrect, contact the creditor and/or the credit bureaus to update it. Your credit score will automatically be corrected afterwards.
If there is a dispute on your credit report that you were unable to remove and you think may affect future credit applications, you can use the statement to explain what happened to new lenders.
You can add up to 100 words on your TransUnion credit report (200 words in Saskatchewan) or 400 characters on Equifax.
You can request for a copy of your credit report from both credit bureaus for free.
Check this post for a guide on how to get your credit report for free in Canada.
Both the Potential Fraud Alert and Fraud Alert will stay on your credit report for 6 years. You can request for it to be removed any time by sending a request to the credit bureaus in writing.
No. Once the creditor verifies you are the one making the credit application, you’ll be extended the credit if you meet their terms.
Been a victim of fraud, or potential fraud, can be both stressful and costly. We hope the information above helps you deal with the process.
But more importantly, learn how to protect yourself from future fraud. Follow good practices and check your credit report regularly.
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