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Equifax Canada answers Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about credit fraud, credit reports, credit scores and credit files from Canadian Consumers
From: Equifax Canada
Obtaining a copy of your credit score on a regular basis is an important step in managing your financial situation. Just as important is gaining an understanding of other credit-related issues and resources. In this section of CanadianCreditCenter.com, you can find information from Equifax Canada's perspectives on financial subjects such as credit fraud, identity theft, credit reporting, credit file corrections and more. There are many reputable sources of free information on matters concerning personal credit in Canada. We've tried to gather them into this FAQ web page.
Frequently Asked Questions of Equifax Canada:
* What exactly is a credit file?
* Why is my credit file important?
* What information does a consumer credit report contain?
* How is this information gathered and who keeps it?
* How can I get a copy of my credit report?
* Can I get my credit report on-line?
* Who can access my credit file?
* Why is some information on my credit file outdated?
* How can I make sure my credit file information is accurate?
* How can I correct an inaccuracy in my Equifax credit file?
* What if I am still not satisfied with an item on my file?
* How long does Equifax keep information in my credit file?
* Why do we need credit reporting?
* What is a credit rating?
* Does my file tell me how I will be rated?
* What is an "inquiry"?
* How can I protect my identity?
* What can I do if I suspect I am a victim of identity fraud?
What exactly is a credit file?
Your credit file is created when you first borrow money or apply for credit. On a regular basis, companies that lend money or issue credit cards to you - including banks, finance companies, credit unions, retailers - send specific factual information related to the financial transactions they have with you to credit reporting agencies.
The credit reporting agencies organize and store this information so that it can be referred to in the future, with your consent. Your credit file contains all the information that a credit reporting agency has received from companies that have extended credit to you.
For example, it might include a listing of your credit cards or lines of credit, along with a history of whether or not you have paid on time. If you have declared bankruptcy, that fact will also appear. If you did not pay a bill and your account was sent to a collection agency, that will show on your credit file. In summary, your credit file is a report of your financial history and performance with credit grantors.
Why is my credit file important?
When you apply for credit or want to open an account, the credit grantor wants to be sure that if they lend you money they will be paid back. The more your credit file demonstrates that you pay your debts on time, the more desirable you become as a potential customer.
If you have fallen behind in the past, a credit grantor wants to see how you have been managing your debt since then. Your credit file also shows how much you have already borrowed. Credit grantors want to evaluate your financial capacity to make monthly payments. No responsible lender will want to over-lend or encourage customers to take on more debt than they can pay back.
What information does a consumer credit report contain?
Here is a general overview of the different sections in a consumer credit report:
1. Personal Identification
Contains key identification information, such as your name, address, birth date and Canadian Social Insurance Number (SIN).
Lists all individuals or organizations that have requested a copy of your credit file in the past three years.
3. Public Record Information
Contains information about secured loans, bankruptcies and/or judgments.
4. Third-Party Collection Agency
Contains information about any involvement with a collection agency trying to settle a debt.
5. Trade Information
Provides details of your credit transactions and shows whether payments are being made. Each of these "trade" items is evaluated by the credit grantor.
The evaluations are based on industry standard ratings, the most common of which use a range from R0 to R9. R0 indicates you are too new to rate; R1 indicates that you pay within 30 days of billing or as agreed; R9 indicates a bad debt, collection or bankruptcy.
6. Consumer Statement
This is where you can add a brief comment about any information in your file. For example, if you have an R9 rating, you may want to explain that you suffered a setback due to illness, temporary unemployment or other extenuating circumstances.
How is this information gathered and who keeps it?
Credit information is gathered by credit reporting agencies, sometimes called credit bureaus. There are two major credit reporting agencies in Canada: Equifax Canada Inc., and Trans Union of Canada, Inc. Governed by provincial and federal laws, they store and maintain credit information about individual Canadians for use by members of the credit reporting agency. These members include banks, financing companies, auto leasing companies, credit card companies, retailers, etc.
Credit grantors update individual credit files regularly by providing information to credit reporting agencies about their customers' credit and payment activities. This ensures that credit files remain up-to-date and as complete as possible.
Other sources of the information contained in your credit report can include collection agencies and public records from courthouses across the country.
Whether you make or miss a payment, this fact will be added to your file. When you give permission to a credit grantor to look at your credit file, this history is available for them to review.
Years ago, the gathering and storing of credit information was done manually - credit bureau employees created actual paper files and updated them one at a time. Now, credit grantors send data in electronic form to a highly efficient and secure computer environment.
How can I get a copy of my credit report or FICO Beacon credit score?
To obtain your credit report or credit score, click here for more information.
Can I get my credit report on-line?
Absolutely! Consumers may obtain a copy of their credit report, plus credit score, and a score analysis on-line in Canada, for a fee. Equifax Consumer Services Canada provides consumers on-line, real-time access to their credit information. Consumers provide personal information during the order process for their credit information so that Equifax can verify their identity and immediately deliver their credit report. The consumer information collected online may be used later to provide relevant notifications and special information to each consumer.
Who can access my credit file?
Equifax is the largest credit-reporting agency in Canada and receives over 40 million requests for file information each year. Federal and provincial laws are very specific as to who can review your credit file and for what purpose. An individual or company may only obtain a copy of your credit file with your consent or after having told you that they will be reviewing your file. A company must have a legitimate business reason and a permissible purpose, as stated in government regulations, to obtain your credit file.
When you apply for a loan or credit card you are usually asked to complete and sign an application form. An application normally includes written consent that gives permission to the credit grantor to check your credit file when you first apply and for as long as the account is open. In addition to your name, an application often asks for your date of birth, your address and a previous address if you've recently moved - all of which helps to locate your credit file at a credit reporting agency.
Each time a member of the credit bureau requests your file, the request is noted on your file as an inquiry. You can therefore see a complete record of who has requested your credit file and when.
A credit reporting agency may only provide a copy of your file when the request relates to the extension of credit, collection of a debt, housing rental, an application for employment or for insurance purposes. Since your credit file contains only factual information, it is important to remember that each of the companies requesting your credit file will interpret those facts in its own way to arrive at a decision.
Of course, you also have the right to obtain a copy of your credit report.
Why is some information on my credit file outdated?
Employment information is reported from applications for credit and therefore is not updated regularly.
This reflects your balance on the date the submitter last reported the information. Many credit grantors supply information on a monthly basis, so the balance shown may not be your current balance.
Old account still reported
A credit file is a history of your payment habits. All accounts, paid or unpaid, remain on your file for six years from the date of last activity.
There may appear to be duplicate accounts reported in your credit file. This needs to be examined carefully, because some credit grantors issue new account numbers with every loan renewal.
Also, when you report a credit card as lost or stolen, your credit grantor will issue a new card with a new number, resulting in a new item on your file.
Accounts included in my bankruptcy still show up in the credit file
All items included in bankruptcy remain on file for six years from the date of last activity.
How can I make sure my credit file information is accurate?
Request a copy of your credit file. If you check your credit file periodically, especially before making any major purchases or applying for credit, you can make sure there are no surprises ahead. If you believe your file contains an inaccuracy, you can take steps to correct it. Simply provide information about the disputed item to the credit reporting agency.
If you find unfavourable, but accurate facts in your file, you may be able to prevent a potentially embarrassing situation by discussing this with the lender when you fill out an application. You can also initiate immediate action to re-establish good credit. You might consider adding a short qualifying statement to your credit file to explain the circumstances surrounding the negative information in your file.
How can I correct an inaccuracy in my Equifax credit file?
First you will need to complete a Consumer Credit Report Update Form. Once complete begin by contacting Equifax.
1. Telephone us at 1 800 465 7166 between 8:00am and 5:00pm ET
2. Write to us at:
Equifax Canada Inc.
Consumer Relations Department
Box 190 Jean Talon Station
3. Send an e-mail request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
After we receive your call, letter or e-mail request, we begin the Dispute Resolution process.
First, we review and consider the information you have sent us about your dispute. If this initial review does not resolve the problem, we will continue our investigation. This involves contacting the submitter of the disputed information on your behalf to review the details. They will investigate and report their conclusions to us. Based on their findings, we may make changes to your credit file. If the disputed information is correct, we will not make any changes.
We will send you a revised credit report if changes are made as a result of the Dispute Resolution process.
We will also send your revised credit file to any company that requested your credit file 60 days prior to the change. In some cases, it may be a period longer than 60 days.
What if I am still not satisfied with an item in my file?
If you still do not agree with an item after it has been verified with the submitter, you can send us a brief statement explaining that you disagree. We will add this statement to your credit file and it will be shown every time your credit file is reviewed.
If you have added a comment, you have the right to ask us to send your revised credit file to any company that requested your credit file 60 days prior to the change.
You do not need to pay a third party to obtain, discuss, review or make changes to your credit report. You have the right to access your information and make changes to your file if there is an inaccuracy or if you want to include a comment.
It is impossible for a third party to make changes in your file if the facts have been correctly reported. There are individuals and companies that claim they can fix a bad credit file. This is not the case. If a file includes accurate, yet negative information about your credit history, this information cannot be changed. Information will only be changed when your file contains an inaccuracy.
How long does Equifax keep information in my credit file?
Inquiries: Inquiries remain on your file for three years However, a minimum of five of the most recent inquiries is kept.
Credit history and banking information: This remains on your credit file for six years from the date of last activity.
Bankruptcies: Details of a single bankruptcy remain on a file for six years from the date of discharge, or if not discharged, for seven years from the date the bankruptcy is assigned. Where a second bankruptcy occurs, both bankruptcies will remain on the file for a total of 14 years after the second bankruptcy is discharged.
Credit counselling, consumer proposals to creditors, orderly payment of debt (OPD), voluntary deposit: If you voluntarily enter into a special arrangement with the credit grantor to pay off a debt, this information will remain on your file for three years from the date of final settlement of the debt.
Secured loans, judgements, foreclosures, garnishments: These legal actions will remain on your file for six years from the date that the action was filed against you.
Collections: If a debt has been sent to a collection agency, the details will remain on your file for six years from the date of last activity.
Why do we need credit reporting?
Every day, Canadians purchase goods or services using credit. The decision to extend credit is made by a "credit grantor" such as a bank or store. Most often, this decision involves reviewing your credit file, which is obtained from a credit reporting agency, such as Equifax. With your permission, credit grantors review your credit file to determine your credit history and assess your credit-worthiness.
What is a rating?
Every piece of credit history information in your credit file is assigned a rating by the credit grantor. The most common ratings are "R" ratings. These are known as North American Standard Account Ratings and are the most frequently used. The "R" indicates that the item being described involves revolving credit. If you always pay on time, it will be coded an R1. If an amount was written off because you never paid it back, it is coded R9. The R ratings are a coding system that translates "on time", "one month late", "two months late", etc., into two-digit codes.
Rating What it Means
R0 Too new to rate; approved but not used
R1 Pays (or paid) within 30 days of payment due date or not over one payment past due
R2 Pays (or paid) in more than 30 days from payment due date, but not more than 60 days, or not more than two payments past due
R3 Pays (or paid) in more than 60 days from payment due date, but not more than 90 days, or not more than three payments past due
R4 Pays (or paid) in more than 90 days from payment due date, but not more than 120 days, or four payments past due
R5 Account is at least 120 days overdue, but is not yet rated "9"
R7 Making regular payments through a special arrangement to settle your debts
R8 Repossession (voluntary or involuntary return of merchandise)
R9 Bad debt; placed for collection; moved without giving a new address
Other rating indicators that might be found on a report are "I" for installment credit or "O" for open credit line. R6 is NOT used.
Does my file tell me how I will be rated?
Your file will not tell you how an individual credit grantor will evaluate you as a potential customer. Each credit grantor has its own policies for making decisions about individual customers.
What is an "inquiry"?
An "inquiry" shows the name of the company or individual who has requested your credit file. Each inquiry is listed on the credit file so that you know who has obtained a copy of it. In addition to checking your file when you first apply for credit, credit grantors typically request regular updates of your credit file after an account has been opened, when it is being renewed or for limit increases. These are listed as "update" inquiries in a separate section of your credit file. They are for your information only and are not displayed to other credit grantors.
How can I protect my identity?
Identity fraud in Canada is on the rise, and it can happen to anyone. It can happen to you. Taking steps to limit your vulnerability to identity fraud is the best method of protecting yourself and safeguarding your credit file. We've put together some tips to help you keep from becoming a Canadian identity fraud victim.
Limit the potential for fraud while using a credit card
When your credit cards are lost or stolen:
* Keep a list of the names, account numbers and the expiration dates of your cards in a safe place. This will aid you when alerting your credit grantors about a lost or stolen card.
* Call your credit grantors immediately upon discovering your cards are missing. Most have 24-hour toll-free numbers for this purpose. If you re-open the account, ensure they have your correct address.
When using your credit cards:
* Carry only the identification and credit cards you need when travelling, whether locally or out of town.
* Do not carry your credit cards with your chequebook.
* If your chequebook is lost or stolen, call your bank. Inform them of the cheque numbers missing.
* Sign your credit cards in permanent ink as soon as you receive them.
* When making a purchase, keep your card in view at all times. Retrieve it as soon as the transaction is completed and make sure it is your card.
* Do not sign a blank charge slip.
* Always save your receipts, never leave them behind. Avoid saying your account number aloud if others can hear.
* Only provide your ID and credit card information over the phone to reputable companies where you have initiated the call.
* If you receive a call from someone claiming to represent your credit card issuer and the caller asks for your account number, do not provide it. If the caller is employed by the issuer, they will know your number.
If your Social Insurance Card is missing, contact your employer or your local Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) office immediately. If your Driver's Licence is missing, contact your local driver and vehicle licence issuing office. You should also report it to your local police or RCMP.
How to manage your credit card statements:
* Check your statement as soon as it arrives to ensure the charges are correct.
* Keep statements in a safe place. They contain sensitive information.
* Before discarding old statements, even of closed accounts, rip them into small pieces or shred them.
* If your statement does not arrive, call your credit card issuer.
Limit the potential for fraud when using ATMs and PINs
* Shield your numbers while using the ATM.
* Never leave your receipts behind.
* Choose a PIN that is unique. Use a number other than your birthday, Social Insurance Number or other obvious number.
* Never write down your PIN in your chequebook or on your cards. It is best to memorize it.
Limit the potential for fraud when using the mail service
* If your mail stops arriving, check with Canada Post. Sometimes a change of address is submitted by a fraud perpetrator in an attempt to get your mail, or steal your identity.
* If you apply for a new credit card and it does not arrive, contact the issuer.
What can I do if I suspect I am a victim of identity fraud?
If you have lost or had your personal identification stolen, or if an institution has contacted you regarding suspected fraud activity, please call Equifax toll-free at 1 800 465 7166 or 514 493 2314. We will add a statement to your file to alert credit grantors that you may be a victim of fraudulent activity.
This may mean that the next time you apply for credit, you may be questioned more thoroughly. The credit grantor wants to make sure that you are, in fact, the person you say you are. The additional questions that might come your way are asked because of the "fraud alert" on your file.
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