Your credit history and credit score is the pulse of your financial life. Whether you are considering getting a mortgage, buying a new vehicle, or even renting an apartment, you run the risk of not being able to do what you want if your credit history is compromised. And as many Canadians can tell you, it happens all the time. Reporting errors, failure to remove historical items, and even identity theft can severely affect your credit score.
The only way you can keep on top of your credit history is to regularly order copies of your credit report and address any errors you see immediately. While the process of fixing up your credit report can be time-consuming, it’s well worth it to keep your credit history clean and your score up.
Ask for Copies of Reports from Equifax and TransUnion Canada
To make sure that you’re covering all your bases, order your credit report from both Equifax and TransUnion Canada. These are Canada’s two main credit reporting agencies, and items that show up with one agency may not necessarily show up with the other one.
While you can order a free copy of your report over the phone to be mailed to you, for the first year you may want to subscribe to both of their online services so you can easily access your information and see it being updated in real time. They will email you if a change is made to your file, and allow you to see your credit score, which the free report will not show you. All in all, it’s worth the low subscription fee to both services to stay on top of your credit history.
Ask for Historical Items to Be Removed
Technically, most items should be removed after they have been on your file for six years. Depending on the item, that length of time may change, but the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has a handy reference guide for how long an item can stay on and in which province. The first time I ordered my report, I was surprised to find it had items that shouldn’t have been on there that were over a decade old. While out-of-date items don’t have a huge impact on your credit score, they do raise red flags for potential lenders as it looks like you have a larger-than-normal number of entries on your report.
Both agencies have forms you can download and fill out in order to correct errors on your report, and both are accessible by phone if you need help in filling it out, although the levels of service may be improved if you subscribe to their premium services.
If You Find Out That Your Identity Has Been Stolen
If you believe that you have been the victim of identity theft based on an item on your credit report, don’t just contact the credit agency to fix it. Contact the institution that the bad item was taken out at to verify that it did not belong to you, and if it did not than contact the police as well. Identity thieves will often use your information to open a number of accounts in your name, and you need to insulate yourself against any further issues by alerting authorities.
The RCMP has an excellent guide detailing how to proceed if you find out you are the victim of identity theft. If you want to insulate yourself against identity theft, don’t bank over public networks such as airports or coffee shops, put a passcode on your smartphone so potential identity thieves can’t log in to your banking apps, and avoid giving out personal information such as social insurance numbers to friends or family members. People the victims know, including siblings, parents and children, perpetrate more than half of identity theft.
Keep Your Bills Paid on Time With Tech
It goes without saying that the best way to keep your credit history clean is to pay your bills and creditors on time. However, with our busy lives, it can be easy to let a due date slip even if we’ve got the money to pay up. As with everything else these days, there’s an app for that. PageOnce will remind you when bills are due and even automatically pay them for you. However, be aware that access to apps like this are very attractive to identity thieves, and guard them as closely as you would your banking details.
If you’re looking to get a mortgage in the future and have questions about the impact of your credit on it, contact us anytime.