Recently, my friend Wendy saw an advertisement to get her Canadian credit report online and took advantage of it. I wish I had known she was doing this because I would have stopped her right there and then. She was doing the right thing by taking an interest in her credit report and credit score, but she went to the wrong source.
At some point, she had to supply her credit card number. Sometimes this is used to “verify” your identity, other times it’s to charge you for your credit report. She glossed over the fine print, as many people do, assuming it was nothing more standard legal terms and disclaimers. A month later, she found a charge for identity theft protection on her credit card statement.
By obtaining that credit report, she had unknowingly subscribed to a monthly subscription to identity theft protection. Not only was she a victim of a slick sales ploy with a forced (and well hidden) monthly subscription to something she didn’t want, the credit report and score she had obtained from that company weren’t even official. It was a bit of a hassle to get herself removed from this service, and the company refused to give her a refund for the month she was already charged for.
Genuine vs Fake Knock off Reports and Scores
Usually these knock-off credit report and scores are not as accurate as your genuine Equifax credit report and FICO score, or even the lesser used TransUnion credit report. It’s not worth getting a report from anywhere else because virtually no lender uses anything but Equifax and sometimes TransUnion. And only Equifax lets you see your real FICO score, although it will cost you money to see it. You can always obtain your credit reports for free from Equifax and TransUnion, but they won’t show you your FICO score.
Although they may give you some idea of what your credit score is and help get you started on the road to recovery, you should avoid the free and fake credit scores and reports. If your funds are tight right now, or you don’t have a credit card to use to obtain your FICO score from Equifax, then at least obtain your credit reports for free (which won’t have your FICO score though), delivered by good old fashioned mail through Canada Post. If you don’t have a credit card yet and you’ve been discharged from bankruptcy, I highly recommend getting a secured credit card for many reasons – one of which is that you can order your FICO credit score online.
Other Pitfalls of Knock-Off Credit Reports and Scores
Just about all of the sites that are offering credit reports and scores use the “free” offer to get your contact details and then try to sign you up for other services that they are offering for a fee. Be aware of this as many are professional marketers, or rather, unscrupulous marketers, and even though they know that the people they are targeting are already having financial problems they will still try to get as much money as possible from you.
Many of them will offer condensed reports that aren’t really suitable and once again there are a lot of these online services that are only giving you this information to get you on their databases.
There are some genuinely good online services that will offer free credit reports and comprehensive information to help people in need. But if it’s truly free, you might as well get it from the only two places that count: Equifax, and as a distant second, TransUnion.
Always get copies of both your credit report and your credit score. You really need both to help understand each other.
What to do After Obtaining Your Real Credit Report and FICO Score
Taking action as soon as possible to start the repair process is the most important thing you should do. Just looking though the reports and requesting error corrections is virtually free but can give your credit profile and FICO score a huge boost. If you haven’t checked for errors, you can be fairly certain that there will be at least some, and they won’t be in your favour. It’s not likely you will have to spend a lot money (perhaps for registered mail), but any time and money you invest in this will pay you back many times over.
Monitor Your Genuine Credit Reports and Scores
Whether you subscribe for monthly reports from Equifax and TransUnion or buy them once in a while, or even request your free credit reports from them (which won’t have your FICO score), you need to track your progress. Sometimes it can take 30 to 60 days for new information to appear on your credit reports and impact your FICO credit score, but it’s a great feeling to watch your credit profile improve over time. Just remember to stay away from the knock-off versions.