Credit Repair: Fixing inaccuracies in your Consumer Credit Report
Your personal information contained in your credit files is governed by legal rights in the US and Canada. In the US these rights are protected by the Consumer Protection Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which is primarily directed towards credit bureaus and credit reports. In Canada there is the federal Act called PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act) and Credit Reporting Act. Other provincial acts like PIPA (Personal Information Protection Act) also protect an individuals personal information.
The intent of these acts are to better equip you to challenge and repair you credit information and protect you against any credit abuse.
A note on Credit Repair and Credit Counselling
There are a lot of Credit Repair Clinics that advertise in mass media or perhaps bombard you with emails. They claim that they can fix bad credit reports for a fee! Remember if they can do it so can you! This section provides you with a general overview and guideline to do so. To ensure a healthy credit climate and maintain the integrity of the credit granting system in North America you must act responsible with credit and only time can improve a poor credit history. Beware of Credit Repair Scams!
Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) organizations on the other hand are agencies that can offer professional advice on how to improve and manage credit. These agencies do it either free or charge a nominal fee as most of them are non-profit organizations. You can check your local yellow pages or 'yellow pages online' under the heading 'Credit and Debt Counselling Service'.
Order your credit report from the Credit Bureau:
You should understand that under the prevailing credit climate any entity can submit negative information on you without you knowing and the onus is on you to keep your credit records clean and accurate. Years ago, Canada's CBC Marketplace program asked 100 people to look over their credit reports to see if there were any mistakes. Were there! More than 40 people spotted errors. And in 13 of the cases, they were serious enough to affect their credit status. So check your report carefully!
The three largest credit bureaus in North America are
•Experian (formerly TRW)
These credit bureaus upon a written notification will provide you with a credit report. They generally do not charge for a report by ordinary mail and require that you fill in one of their required forms for this request. (They can also charge you a small fee of around $15 for this service). [The three largest Credit Bureaus in Canada are Equifax, Trans Union and Northern Credit Bureaus (see bottom of this page)]
Check the accuracy of your credit report.
If you notice any inaccuracy with what is being reported on your credit file you have the right to dispute the information. Inaccuracies could include incorrectly keyed information, or information that is obsolete, incomplete, or false.
Timelines for retaining negative information on a credit report.
Depending upon your jurisdiction negative information can be retained on your credit report anywhere between 6-10 years. Click here for a general understanding of timelines.
If challenged, the Credit Bureau must verify the information. 'Request everything in writing!'
Make a written request when challenging the accuracy of your information. Credit Bureaus are not obliged to verify the information only if challenged.
The credit bureau then contacts the creditor to verify the challenged information that was provided by them to the credit bureau.
The credit bureau (depending upon jurisdiction) generally has 30 days to respond to such written requests. In Canada not responding is deemed denial of request and a complaint can be made to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
Credit Bureau must purge any challenged information that can not be verified from the credit report.
The provider of credit information also has a limited time to respond to the challenged information (generally 30 days). Any information that can not be substantiated generally gets eliminated from the credit bureau files due to the default of a creditor in meeting these timelines. If the creditor (the provider of the negative information in this case) is able to substantiate their claim then the negative element will remain in your credit report.
Negative Marks and the right to add a 'Consumer Statement' to your file:
In reviewing your account profile if you come across negative marks and you feel that you owe an explanation to the negative marks on your credit file you have the right to add a consumer statement that explains your point of view to the negative remark on your file. The credit bureau must attach your brief statement to any credit report that it subsequently issues on you.
An example of this could be that you have a lot of enquiries on your credit files which creditors deem as high risk. Your consumer statement could explain the reason being that you were shopping for the best rate and ended up getting a lot of enquiries on your credit file. A change in address could end up in some bills getting delayed in payment or a settlement of a disputed sum of money with a creditor might still show up as an amount owing or the balance being charged off. All of this could mean negative history for which a 'consumer statement' from you could help keep you in good credit standing.
Speak to your creditor.
If your request is reasonable and legitimate you can first ask the creditor to clean their records and have them contact the credit bureau to fix the problem.
Once the problem is fixed order an updated credit report from the Credit Bureau.
Remember that in many jurisdiction the credit bureau is required by law to provide a free credit report update to anyone who has received a copy of the report within six months prior to any amendments or consumer statements that are added to a credit report.
Also, for the purpose of employment within the past two years of these amendments the credit bureau is required to send an updated credit report to the required parties involved.
P.O. Box 105873
Atlanta, GA. 30348
(800) 685-1111 or (770) 612-3200
For Georgia, Vermont or Massachusetts (800) 548-4548
For Maryland, (800) 233-7654
Web site address: http://www.equifax.com/
Equifax Canada Inc.
Consumer Relations Department
Box 190 Jean Talon Station
Web site address: http://www.equifax.ca/
Experian USA (formerly TRW)
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, Texas 75013-2104
Web site address: http://www.experian.com/
Trans Union Corporation USA
Consumer Disclosure Center
P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA. 19064-0390
Web site address: http://www.tuc.com/
Sales and Marketing Division
325 Milner Avenue, Suite 1501
Toronto, On M1B 5N1
Phone us at: (416) 609-2070
Fax us at: (416) 609-1994
Web site address: http://www.tuc.ca/
Northern Credit Bureaus Inc
336 Rideau Boulevard
Rouyn -Norand PQ
Fax: (800) 646-5876
Web site address: http://www.creditbureau.ca/ENGLISH/english.htm
This outfit is also a collection agency.