Thursday, January 6, 2011

Getting Free Credit Reports

A recent article about getting free credit reports gave enough practical information that it overcame my natural laziness. It turns out that you can order these credit reports with a call to an 800-number that responds with an automated system. You don’t even have to talk to a person.

I was able to order my credit reports by keying in information that I had in my head and wallet: Social Insurance Number, credit card number, address, telephone number, date of birth, etc. I attempted to place the order with both Equifax (800-465-7166) and TransUnion (800-663-9980 (outside Quebec) or 877-713-3393 (within Quebec)). You have the option of paying to get your credit score at the same time. I decided to stick to just the free information.

Ordering my credit report from Equifax went quite smoothly. You have a choice of keying in the information or saying it. I tried saying my date of birth at first, but it just couldn’t understand me. The hardest part was my postal code. There didn’t seem to be an option for keying it in and I had to say it 4 times before the system understood me. In the end an automated voice promised to send me my report in 3-5 business days.

Ordering from TransUnion didn’t go as smoothly. They asked for less information, and all of it had to be entered on the telephone keypad. After entering each piece of information I was asked whether I was happy with my entry, but it didn’t tell me what I had entered. Equifax spoke my entry back to me each time so that I could verify that I’d got it right.

After entering all the required information, the TransUnion automated voice told me that it couldn’t process my order at this time. I called back and tried again painfully carefully but got the same result. At this point I started imagining all the identity-theft related reasons for this failure. No doubt the real reason for the problem is harmless, but I was hooked and I had to go to the backup plan: mailing in a request. For mail-in instructions: Equifax or TransUnion.

So now I sit back and wait for the credit reports to arrive. I’ve never worried too much about them in the past because I’m not very dependent on credit, but I suppose it’s better to know if the reports are full of incorrect information, or worse, evidence of identity theft.

7 comments:

  1. I've always had trouble with paper requests sent to TransUnion. IIRC, they weren't happy with the identification I sent (copies of driver license). I just gave up making requests to TransUnion after this happened a couple of times.

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  2. @CC: I'd be interested to know whether people have less trouble getting credit reports from TransUnion when they pay for them.

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  3. I just mailed in my request through Equifax. Guess we'll compare wait times...

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  4. @Thicken: Did you try to order your credit report from Equifax over the phone first?

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  5. Cool, I didn't know you could request over the phone. I'm filling out the paper application right now.

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  6. Hmmm, just tried the phone option with TransUnion and got the same result as you Michael - "we cannot process your request at this time", please write in. The phone request service looks at the best looks like incompetence, which would make one wonder about the quality of the credit information collection and storage it conducts, or at worst like an odious sham meant to incent people to pay. How can consumers take them to task?

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  7. @CanadianInvestor: I'm not what the problem is or how to take them to task or whether they deserve to be taken to task. By writing about my experience I hope to shine a faint light on the problem. Thanks for sharing your similar experience. Maybe if enough people do the same problems will be solved.

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