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Are you making a major financial decision, such as buying a home, in the near future? Making sure your credit report is accurate and up to date is a must.
Your credit report is important to your financial health, as it’s a record of how you’re using and have used credit in the past. The information on your report is used to calculate your credit scores.
It’s a good idea to request a copy of your credit reports at least once a year. You may not realize it, but errors on your credit report are more common than you may think (more on common errors below). Regularly reviewing them can help you catch errors and identity theft.
Here’s what to do if you find an error on your credit report and how to dispute it.
What is a dispute?
If you find an error, such as mistakes in personal information like your mailing address or date of birth, or don’t recognize information on your credit report, you may be able to dispute it by requesting an investigation.
So why would you want to dispute errors? One big reason is that inaccurate information on your report could potentially negatively impact your credit scores.
In most provinces, the credit reporting agencies – Transunion and Equifax in Canada – are required by law to verify the accuracy of any information you’re disputing.
But before you file a dispute, you should understand this: Only information that’s considered inaccurate can be taken off your credit report. Any information that’s accurate (even if it’s negative) will remain on your credit report — usually for six or seven years.
After the investigation, if the credit reporting agency determines that there is an error in your report, changes will be made to your credit report.
Filing a dispute is free and you can file a dispute yourself. Whether you file it yourself or through a company, though, the outcome should be the same (provided the same documentation is provided in both cases).
How do you file a dispute?
Before you file a dispute, gather documentation to support your claim, such as receipts, financial statements and valid pieces of identification.
With Equifax, you can file a dispute by completing and submitting a Consumer Credit Report Update Form.
With TransUnion, you can file a dispute by downloading and completing an Investigation Request Form.
For assistance filing a dispute, you can contact Equifax at 1-800-465-7166 and TransUnion at 1-800-663-9980.
“We recommend having all of the related information on hand and submitting the documentation along with your dispute. For example, if you’re disputing the payment of an account, having documentation that verifies the payment is helpful,” says David Blumberg, public relations director of TransUnion.
Before the credit reporting agencies will make changes to your credit report, they need to verify your claim.
If the lender agrees that your credit report is inaccurate, the credit reporting agencies will update your credit report, but if the lender says the information is accurate, there won’t be a change made to your credit report.
If you contact the lender involved in the dispute directly about the inaccuracy on your credit report (this is done in addition to filing a dispute), this can help the dispute process move more quickly. Explain to the lender the information you believe is inaccurate and ask them to update their files accordingly.
If you’re not happy with the outcome of the dispute investigation, you can escalate your case by asking to speak with the lender in question.
If you’re still not happy with the outcome, you can request for the credit reporting agencies to include a consumer statement for free.
In up to 100 words (200 words if you’re in Saskatchewan), you can explain an item on your credit report you may disagree with. Your consumer statement may be considered by lenders when considering your application for credit.
If you’re still not satisfied, you can file a written complaint to your province’s or territory’s consumer affairs office.
How long can it take the credit reporting agencies to take action?
Disputes are typically handled by the credit reporting agencies in a timely manner.
“On average, TransUnion typically responds to a dispute within 30 days. During that time, the dispute is reviewed, verified with the relevant data furnisher and, if applicable, the necessary corrections are made,” Blumberg says.
What are common credit report errors?
When reviewing your credit reports, it’s a good idea to request copies from both credit reporting agencies, as Equifax and TransUnion may have different information on file about you.
“Information commonly disputed includes information related to items being paid, no knowledge of the debt and updating accounts to show they were part of a debt repayment program, such as bankruptcy,” Blumberg says.
Here’s a recap of common credit report errors to watch out for:
- Personal information mistakes, such as outdated mailing addresses or an incorrect date of birth.
- Incorrect payment information, such as on-time payments showing as late.
- Negative information that remains on your credit report beyond the maximum seven years (such as bankruptcies).
- Credit card accounts or loans for someone with a similar name or for someone who has fraudulently used your identity.
By regularly reviewing your credit report and taking the necessary steps to correct errors, you can ensure your credit report is accurate before applying to borrow money for a mortgage or loan.