How to correct an error on your credit report

Your credit score can determine your financial freedom – but incorrect information on your report can result in rejections from potential lenders or higher interest rates.

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If you find a mistake on your credit report, there are steps you can take to repair inconsistencies and problems — and ways you can potentially prevent errors from happening altogether.

In Canada, most provinces and territories have their own unique credit reporting legislation that outlines fair practices that should be followed by the credit bureaus. This legislation typically gives you the right to request your credit score, dispute any errors, remove any outdated information and more.

What can cause a mistake on my credit report?

Errors in your credit report are most often the result of incomplete information or a mix-up in details that should be on somebody else’s report.

  • Clerical errors. A person could have read or entered your name, address and other information incorrectly, especially if it came from a handwritten application. Another common problem is transposed or incorrect numbers in a Social Insurance Number.
  • Different names. If your name is Susan but you applied for credit as “Sue,” it could result in a problem. Always apply with your full legal name.
  • Inadvertently applied credit or payment info. Loan or card payments can mistakenly reflect on the wrong account or to the wrong person.
  • Incorrectly reported details. A person may have mistakenly reported an inaccurate Social Insurance Number and other info, resulting in their information on your report. Providers might accidentally report a missing payment for the wrong account.
  • Fraud or identity theft. If you see activity on your account — for example, loans that aren’t yours or applications you never submitted — it’s possible that your identity has been stolen. Take action immediately by notifying both credit bureaus of the entries that aren’t yours.

What mistakes should I look for?

Even a typo in your personal information can prevent you from getting the best credit offers.

  • Incorrect identifying info. Confirm that your name, Social Insurance Number and all previous addresses are correct. Also review your employment history — if you find any mistakes, report it immediately to limit the chance of identity theft.
  • Open accounts. If you find listed an account you’ve fully repaid or credit or store cards you’ve never used, call the credit reporting bureaus to report the discrepancy. You may also want to call the provider to resolve the issue.
  • Incorrect payments or defaults. Late or missed payments can seriously decrease your score. Mistakes can happen, so dispute any negative info that’s reported incorrectly to the bureaus and the creditor that provided the info.
  • Duplicate listings. If you find an account that’s listed more than once, report it.
  • Fraudulent credit applications. If your identity is stolen, you could see multiple applications, loans or unpaid services that you’ve never applied for. Report these red flags immediately to both credit bureaus.

What should I do if I find an error on my credit report?

You can fix an error in your credit report with diligence and documentation. Here’s where to start.

  • Look at your own records. First, see if you can determine the source of the problem. Did the credit card provider make a mistake, or was it a third party you make credit payments to?
  • Check with the bureaus. The two credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, don’t often communicate, so contact them individually to see if the mistake appears on each of your credit reports.
  • Call your creditors. An error can show up on your credit report if credit card providers or lenders send incorrect information to a reporting agency.
  • Gather information. Be sure you have the information you need to fix any mistakes — for example, a mailed utility statement to correct your address or bank statements showing correct payment.
  • Document everything. To avoid problems down the road, keep track of when you contact creditors and bureaus, who you talk to and when you submitted proof.
  • File a request for correction. If you’re mailing your request, include copies of the error and your proof to resolve it.

It can take months before you see the fruits of your labour, but you should follow up about a month after filing. Don’t assume that your request has been taken care of – reach out to both bureaus and confirm that your report has been fixed.
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How to avoid credit report errors before they’re a problem

The simplest way to keep a clean credit history is to check your report regularly. You can request a copy of your report free of charge from each of the credit bureaus or from a reputable online lender — which means that there are multiple ways to access your credit report free of charge. You will have to receive your credit score and report via mail from the credit bureaus in order to skip paying a fee, while some online services may provide you wth your score and report free of charge.

With consistent checking, you should be able to catch most issues before they become a problem. Other resources are available for extra diligence:

  • Sign up for credit alerts. Some credit reporting services offer annual subscriptions for credit alerts so that you can fix problems as they occur.
  • Double-check payments. Make sure your payments and debits actually go through. Even autopay systems can make mistakes.

Ultimately, you may not be able to always stop credit report errors before they happen. However, by staying on top of your bills and keeping an eye on your credit score, you can better protect yourself if a mistake happens.

What are my rights?

While the credit reporting legislation varies between provinces and territories, you will typically be able to:

  • Request a free copy of your report by mail. Request your free credit report from one of the two credit bureaus via mail. You will usually need to send a copy of two valid pieces of ID, as well as provide some personal information. Your report should reach you within two to three weeks.
  • Ask for your credit score. Depending on the credit bureau you’ve requested it from, you’ll pay a fee of around $15-$16 to get access to your credit report immediately online. Your credit score will cost you $23-$24.
  • Dispute and correct inaccurate information. If your information is incomplete, no longer valid or just plain wrong, an agency must correct it.
  • Remove outdated information from your report. In general, most negative information is outdated after seven years, and bankruptcies are outdated after six to 14.
  • Choose who can see your credit report. Usually employers or potential employers cannot see your credit report without your written consent.
  • Opt out of marketing lists. Tell each of the credit bureaus to remove you from lists that can result in prescreened credit and insurance offers.
  • Seek council if your rights are challenged. Credit repair law firms and other professionals can help, if you need it. You can also file a complaint with your provincial consumer agency.

What is in a credit report?

Your credit report has a lot of information about you and your credit history. It’s a detailed record of your credit history that can affect whether lenders approve you for borrowing, and can even help you get access to better interest rates and more favourable borrowing terms.

Amongst the details in your credit report are your:

  • Personal information. Including your date of birth, Social Insurance Number, employment history and previous addresses.
  • Debts or loans. Open and close dates, credit limits, loan amounts and your payment history for that credit.
  • Credit applications. If you’ve applied for a card, loan or mortgage in the past two years, a potential creditor will likely see it.
  • Defaults and other credit infringements. Your report includes details of any overdue debts you might have, payments you’ve missed on loans and bills, as well as bankruptcies.

How do I make a credit report request

  • You can get a free copy of your credit report by mail from both of the credit bureaus. Learn more about the steps to receive your report from Equifax by clicking here and TransUnion by clicking here. Remember that your reports are slightly different between the two bureaus. Visit both websites and follow the steps to order your credit file. You can also try calling the credit bureaus to request a copy of your report. It can take between two and three weeks to be delivered, so if you need to check it in a hurry you’ll have to pay.
  • You can also request a free copy of your credit report from a reputable and trustworthy credit reporting site.

Bottom line

Your credit is an important part of your financial profile. Incomplete or incorrect information in it can lead to rejections from potential creditors or lenders, as well as higher interest rates and less favourable terms. Correcting errors on your credit report can be a slow process, but it could help you get financed down the road with more flexible options and better borrowing terms.

Be proactive about your credit score to catch mistakes soon after they happen — and if you find one, you have the right to request that the credit bureaus fix it.

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