Back in November I listed some of the financial chores to consider completing by year end. Of course, I forgot one. You can check your credit file annually for free; if you’re like me, you probably have forgotten to do that: It’s not yet too late! You can check your credit report for free once per year with TransUnion and Equifax.
Why Should I Check My Credit Report?
This check will not tell you your credit rating or credit score. It will only tell you information about what credit products you are using and whether there are any problems such as late payments. For people who use credit responsibly and always pay off their balance at the end of the month, the purpose of the check is to make sure no identity mix-ups or identity theft has taken place.
For example, if your name is a fairly common one, it’s possible a mistake can happen and someone else’s credit card can be listed as yours. If they aren’t managing that card well, it’s your credit history that will get damaged.
If you find an item on your file that isn’t yours you can get the problem corrected before it becomes a major problem, such as when you go to renew your mortgage or purchase a car.
A less common but more frightening prospect is that your identity may have been stolen. Again, seeing the problem on your report will give you the tip to start fixing it.
Earlier this year, my credit card was compromised and used without authorization for a number of online purchases. (Ironically it was the card I only use about once per month, so I hope the police determined the source of the information theft and could use it to catch the fraudsters.) I think I should check my credit report to make sure nothing else has happened because of this security breach.
Does a Free Credit Report Include My Credit Rating or Score?
No. This check will not tell you your credit rating or credit score. You have to pay money to retrieve those. In general if you’ve been living within your means and paying your bills you don’t need to know the number anyway!
(Some RedFlagDeal users will play the system by signing up for a year’s service to check their score, and then cancel after they receive the first report for their “first month free” trial offer. I don’t encourage this, personally.)
How to Order Your Annual Free Credit Report for Equifax
You can order your Equifax “Credit File” for free by calling their toll-free number or by submitting a request in writing.
To Order Your Equifax Free Credit File by Phone
First, don’t trust any phone number given on a secondary website, including this one, to be correct!
Someone could hack my site and change the phone number. Then when you call, some fraudster will get your full name, address and Social Insurance Number: plenty of information to start stealing your identity!
The toll-free number for Equifax is provided on their website.
Here’s what I had to provide to the automated service to order my report by phone:
- my Social Insurance Number (you can’t use the automated service without giving this)
- my date of birth
- my house number, but not street, city, or province
- whether I have an apartment number
- my postal code
The automated system asked for my credit card number, after explaining nothing would be billed to me. It then asked if I had a major credit card from MasterCard, VISA or American Express.
I said “no.”
The system responded that it will mail my report.
I actually DO have a major credit card in my name. It’s slightly possible that some internal check will compare my response with my file and reject my request for the credit report, but I doubt it. After all, people must call in who like me are (a) reluctant to give their credit card number out where they might be overheard or via cell phone transmission or (b) who don’t have their card with them at the time they make the call and who haven’t memorized their card number. If the request is rejected I will update this post, of course.
The automated system said I could expect my report in 3-5 business days. Knowing the postal service here and given the weekends and stat holidays coming up, I’ll expect it sometime in the New Year.
To Order Your Equifax Free Credit File by Mail or Fax
To request your free credit report from Equifax, print the form provided on their site.
You will need to provide
- a photocopy of 2 different government-issued identification items
for example a driver’s licence, birth certificate or passport
- if your current address is not on one of the photocopies of your id, you must also provide a copy of another document with your address
for example a utility bill, bank or credit card statement. You can black out the details if it still clearly shows the date of the document, the sender, your name and address and your account number.
- your full name/s
- any previous addresses within the past 3 years
- at your option, you can provide: your Social Insurance Number, this is useful if you have a very common name
- at your option, you can provide: your name and the last four digits of a major credit card
Sign and date the form.
The information you provide will
- be used to update your file; it may also be disclosed to customers requesting your credit report
- be used to issue you the correct report
Mail or fax the completed request form to the address or fax number listed on the Equifax.ca form.
So Do I Have to Give My SIN and Credit Card Number to Get a Free Report
As mentioned above,
- you can order a free report by phone without giving a credit card number but you must provide your SIN.
- you can order a free report by mail or fax without giving a credit card number or SIN but you must provide copies of two pieces of government id, your full address and date of birth.
Pick your poison!
When Will I Get My Equifax Credit Report?
The file will be sent by mail. It should arrive within 5-10 business days after the request is received.
Have you ever found anything spooky when you checked your credit file? Please share your experiences with a comment.