Well, you won’t be the first. In millions of files and hundreds of millions of reported entries, there are bound to be mistakes. Some are minor data-entry errors. Others are damaging whoppers. For example, we’ve heard of instances where negative credit files from one person got posted to the file of someone who had a similar name (the “close enough” school of credit reporting).
Some credit bureau watchers estimate that there are errors in 10 to 33 per cent of credit files. Some of those mistakes can be serious enough to hurt your credit status. That hit to your credit score can result in a denied loan or a higher interest rate. Across Canada, provincial consumer agencies collectively get hundreds of complaints annually about credit bureaus.
If you find something in your file that you dispute, you can write the credit agency in question and tell them you think there’s an error. The credit reporting agency usually sends along the form you need when it sends you the credit report. Use it to spell out the details of any information you dispute. The dispute forms are online, too.
Be sure to send along any documents that support your version of the matter in dispute. The reporting agency then contacts whoever submitted the information you’re disputing.
If the file is changed, you will be sent a copy of your new report and any company that’s requested your credit file in the previous two months will also be sent the corrected file.
If the item is not changed to your satisfaction, you have the right to add a brief statement to your credit file with your side of the story. You can also ask to have your credit file, along with your comment on the disputed entry, sent to any company that has requested your credit report in the previous two months.
You can also file a complaint with your provincial consumer agency.
What are credit monitoring services?
If you spot entries in your credit report that don’t seem to relate to you (such as charge accounts you never opened or bad debt notations you never got), you may be a victim of the rapidly-growing crime of identity theft. You should notify the credit reporting company immediately.
There are companies that will take the effort of checking your credit report off your hands — for a price. The credit reporting bureaus are, not surprisingly, very active in this area. At TransUnion, their credit monitoring service costs $14.95 a month and includes unlimited access to your credit profile and credit score. At Equifax, credit monitoring and identity theft protection starts at $16.95 a month.
There are several other companies offering similar services for similar prices. They usually include features like e-mail alerts when there’s a change to your credit report.
It’s a personal decision whether you feel these services are worth the money. The bottom line is you can always check your credit report for free by mail. Or, you can pay to get it online whenever you want. People who have been the victims of identity theft or people who are worried that they may be susceptible to ID theft may consider the expense worthwhile.
Should I pay to use a credit repair service?
Industry Canada says there’s no point in hiring a company that claims it can improve your credit rating. Firms that say they can “fix” a bad credit report are often little more than fly-by-night operations designed to relieve you of hundreds of dollars in return for nothing.
There’s no way a credit repair clinic can change accurate information that doesn’t reflect well on you. The only thing they can fix on your behalf is an inaccuracy in your credit file. And you can do that yourself free of charge.