Exercise your right to a free credit report

September 7 2010 by Ellen Roseman

That’s the headline for my column in tomorrow’s paper, which is online here.

I’m annoyed to see Equifax and TransUnion pushing online access to credit reports at their websites (at a $15 fee) and downplaying your right to free access.

I’m also concerned about the heightened role that credit reports and credit scores play in your life as a consumer. They’re not just used to extend credit, but can also determine what you pay for insurance.

Many people deal with companies that are quick to send “overdue” accounts to collection, even if the charges are unfounded. You get a threatening letter from a collection agency and you’re tempted to pay up, just to keep your credit record from being tarnished.

On this blog, you can read about intimidation by companies — such as Rogers, Bell, Direct Energy, Summitt Energy and Premier Fitness — that resort to heavy-handed collection tactics. These become part of your credit history and later count as a black mark when you apply for new credit.

To make things worse, you may not be getting the message to monitor your credit report on a regular basis. Your vigilance is the only check against errors, incompetence and corporate bullying. Only you can ensure that the facts are right.

So, let’s stop credit bureaus from promoting $15 credit reports front and centre on their home pages. They’re bound by law to give you the information without charge. I’d like to see them take this responsibility seriously again.

27 comments

  1. TB

    Sep 8 2010

    Have you been subjected to a pop-up window that promotes “freecreditreport.com”? Invisible in the window is a reference to Transunion, which doesn’t provide this free service.

    Clicking on the icon or web address will result in a form to fill out, then a credit card number is requested to charge a ridiculous fee of one dollar for this service. No alternative forms of payment are accepted.

    If enough people rally around this scam, perhaps Transunion (and Equifax) will see firsthand the power of community above their greed.

  2. second opinion mike

    Sep 8 2010

    Great topic Ellen! Scorecards are a very useful tool. One thing they do quite well is prevent discrimination against any ethnic group, since the scores truly are colour blind. That was a large part of the reason American firms have utilized the scorecards.

    However, they only work if the inputs are accurate and quite often they are not. A banker friend once tipped my spouse to the fact a bank she never dealt with was showing a large line of credit on her credit bureau.

    Banks and credit bureaus do not take nearly enough care to determine who owns the debt…..they assume you will complain if it is not you!

  3. NormaK

    Sep 8 2010

    So glad to see this discussion. I have 2 ‘beefs:

    –It appears that the only way to receive a FREE credit REPORT, at least from Equifax, is by completing the form provided on the site, attaching copies of 2 pieces of government issued identification, and then either faxing it or, worse, sending it through the MAIL!

    This personal information, in my opinion, can, if it ‘falls into the wrong hands’, aid in identify theft.

    Also, there is still a provision on the form to provide the S.I.N. It’s now ‘optional’ but why would anyone 1) provide their S.I.N. and 2) send it through the mail???

    — Even though the credit REPORT can be accessed for free, it seems that one still has to pay to receive the credit RATING. Since that’s key info, why isn’t there an option to receive it free also?

    What are your thoughts?

  4. Kim

    Sep 9 2010

    I learned to request a credit report every year after reading articles like Ellen’s. A couple of years ago, I found out a bad entry on my file while at a meeting with my bank about mortgage pre-approval. I didn’t think it was possible as the annual report didn’t show anything out of ordinary.

    Turns out the major credit bureaus don’t share information. To be diligent and thorough, now I request annual credit reports for myself and family from both Equifax and TransUnion.

    The bad debt turned out to be someone with the same last name as mine, but this just shows how easily things could screw up.

  5. Mo

    Sep 9 2010

    Could someone please explain why we are entitled to free access to our credit reports? I’m just wondering who funds the credit rating organizations, and who covers their operating costs.

  6. Cynthia

    Sep 9 2010

    I find both Equifax and TransUnion’s websites are horrible. Poorly designed and difficult to find the link to get the form to fill out and mail in, it is buried deep in the website.

  7. James

    Sep 10 2010

    WW:

    There are only two credit bureaus in Canada. From Ellen’s column, “You can ask for a copy of the credit history kept on file about you by Canada’s two major credit reporting agencies, Equifax and Transunion.”

    The United States has three. The above mentioned, plus Experian.

  8. Steve Garganis

    Sep 10 2010

    Great topic Ellen…. especially today, when your mortgage approval, loan approval, line of credit approval, credit card approval are ALL based on your Credit Score or FICO Score (Beacon score, as it’s referred to amongst Financial Institutions).

    You CAN get a free credit report. But if you want the Beacon Score or FICO score, as it’s referred to, you must pay a fee.

    What’s unfortunate is that a credit report without the score is almost useless. It sure would be great to know that score. Then, if a score is too low, one could take the necessary steps to improve the credit score.

    With the help of a Credit Improvement company, an individual can get change quickly by making some adjustments. But a consumer needs to understand how credit is measured and what affects change. This is probably a topic for discussion in another forum.

    Keep up the fight Ellen. FREE credit reports with the credit scores is the goal.

  9. Ralph Sutton

    Sep 12 2010

    I read your article about credit reports, I already have experienced this issue.

    I discovered that both Equifax and Transunion will not send you a free credit report, but they will charge you $50 for a copy. The problem is that once you have this document, there is nothing you can do about it. They refused to alter it, even though it was completely wrong.

    It had cars I purchased or leased over 20 years ago on it and they refuse, even if I could prove it, to alter it. Also, there is nothing legally you can do to get them to correct it as the Provincial and Federal laws governing them will not let you litigate or push them to do anything.

    They only collect info and they don’t ever update it.

    It would nice if you can really show me how you managed to get them to correct your report because my experience was, as I stated, HOPELESS!

    Please tell me.

  10. Lisa Millett

    Sep 13 2010

    I just got my credit check done and there are errors in past addresses where I have never lived and employment errors also. how do i fix this – the report was processed by TransUnion at a fee of $24 incl. tax

  11. Dd

    Sep 13 2010

    You think it would be cheaper for them to give an online report rather than a paper one. I would like to see us able to sign up online to have our report sent to us every quarter!

    So how do we make that happen?

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