Fix your poor credit rating

Request a free annual credit report to check for errors, suggests Gail Vaz-Oxlade.

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by Gail Vaz-Oxlade
January 10th, 2013

Online only.

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Did you ever see the CBC Marketplace episode where they asked 100 Canadians to check their credit reports for errors? Forty of those people found problems. Not exactly confidence-building when it comes to what those reports are saying about you, right? So when was the last time you checked your credit report? Don’t you want to know what those credit bureaus are saying about you?

The two main credit bureaus in Canada are Equifax and TransUnion and both have websites where you can order a copy of your credit report. If you ask for your report to be mailed to you, there’s no cost. If you want an instant download, you’ll pay for the convenience. In both cases, there won’t be any effect on your credit score. While a “hard pull”—lenders checking your credit history—does impact your score, a “soft pull”—you checking—does not.

The next step is to read the report carefully to check for mistakes. Gloss over nothing. Is your name spelled correctly? Are the addresses given yours? Is your date of birth correct? Even small errors can be signals that your file has been confused with someone else’s. Yes, this happens all the time. Once, when I checked my credit report I found that a creditor had reported me as delinquent for card I’d reported lost. Despite my attempt to clear up the mistake, the credit bureau would not change the information because the department store card stuck to its story. It’s one of the reasons I refuse to carry a department store card of any kind. Since those folks can pretty well say what they want—there’s no real verification process—their mistakes can ruin my credit without me being able to do squat. So I just don’t go there.

There are mistakes you can correct. My friend Tash found the wrong birthday on her file and found out her mother’s information was being recorded on her file. She fixed that. And my friend Donna found that the same loan was being reported twice, making it look like she’d borrowed twice as much. She called her bank and got them to fix the information on her file.

Ask for old information to be removed from your file. Most records are kept for seven years, so if you had a spotty credit history in your youth, but have subsequently cleaned up your credit behavior, make sure those mistakes are removed as soon as possible from your file.

If anyone offers to clean up your credit for you—yah, there will be a charge—just say no. If you’ve damaged your credit history, you’re going to have to be a good little borrower and wait out your past indiscretions even as you build good credit files. And if there are mistakes, why would you pay anyone else to fix them for you? That’s your job. It’s your credit history.

5 comments on “Fix your poor credit rating

  1. Thank you very much! I will get a copy of my credit report.

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  2. This is a big issue for us as my husband has the same name as his father. Every year we find that despite vastly different date of birth and SIN, they have added his father's stuff to my husband's credit report. I also decided to return to my maiden name on financial records for this reason: my husband's cousin has the same first name as I do and the family last name, and once again, even though I've never even lived out east where she always has, despite different birth dates and different SINs, I was still finding her stuff on my report.

    It really would be nice if somehow these (pretty huge, in my books) mistakes would stop being made, but until then we're just going to have to be vigilant!

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  3. Great article, are the companies that say they can "fix" bad credit a scam? I have a few things on the report I just got that I would like to dispute.

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  4. Great information.People should improve their credit without using credit repairing companies.Many companies use loopholes and can get you in legal troubles.Credit improving is a long process, but if you know how to do it, it will help.

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  5. thanks for sharing this great article. I am always searching for informative information like this.

    Reply

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