Velimir Drecun says he wouldn’t have noticed his credit rating had apparently plunged had it not been for a landlord asking specifically for an Equifax credit check when he wanted to rent a basement suite in Toronto earlier this month.
Now, Drecun is warning other Meridian Credit Union customers to check their Equifax credit scores after learning an error within the credit reporting company had duplicated a maxed-out credit card.
His score was 526 on Equifax; 150 points lower compared with another credit bureau.
“It’s frustrating,” Drecun said. “You put the work in to improve it and to have a good history … and you’re still at the bottom of the barrel.”
Equifax Canada told CBC Toronto a technology change had duplicated credit cards on some Meridian customers’ credit rating reports.
Drecun’s score was amended after he and CBC reached out to Equifax, but not in time for him to put together his rental application. He’s concerned about other Meridian customers who may not know their credit could be affected.
“If it’s affecting their whole database of credit card clients, that’s a lot of people,” Drecun said. “I know how stressful it was for me and I’m thinking it would have been nice if someone [informed others] if they got nailed.”
Meridian is the largest credit union in Ontario and second largest in Canada. Equifax says customers across the country are affected, but neither Meridian nor Equifax would say how many.
Equifax says it’s working to resolve the problem by September.
Maxed out at $3,000
A third-party company previously issued and managed Meridian Visa credit cards. Last October, Meridian took over the cards and, Drecun says, customers were issued new Visas while the old accounts were closed.
But both cards showed up on his Equifax report, resulting in a lower score.
Drecun says he normally wouldn’t have known because he gets his credit reports from TransUnion, which listed his credit as “good” at 676.
When he first saw the 526 on Equifax’s report he thought he was the victim of fraud.
The report showed two maxed-out credit cards with a $3,000 limit, while TransUnion only showed one.
“It’s like I opened two credit cards [for] the same person for the same amount on the same day,” Drecun said.
He says Equifax captured the balance on the credit card when it was maxed out last year, because he was getting a business up and running. He says he’s since paid some of the debt.
While he was waiting for the fix, Drecun put some money down on another credit card to boost his score on Equifax, but it only bumped it up by 23 points and was still listed as “poor.”
Mark Kalinowski, a credit counsellor and financial educator with the Credit Counselling Society says a 150-point discrepancy like Drecun’s can make a “dramatic” difference when it comes to getting credit. He says it could force a customer to get a mortgage or loan from a private lender instead of a bank.
“The interest rate difference could be not just several points, but maybe five to 10,” he said.
Kalinowski says different credit bureaus will often report different scores based on the same information. Still, he says, banks may deny lending to someone with a “poor” credit score.
Or, if a loan is approved, “depending on the type of loan or credit we have, especially in terms of a mortgage, it can add tens of thousands of dollars extra over the lifetime of that product,” he said.
Meridian’s vice president of shared services says the credit union is reporting information correctly to both Equifax and TransUnion.
Nick Cicchino said in an email Meridian employees have been advised of the problem and are trained to help customers who inquire about incorrect credit reports.
Equifax Canada says customers who need immediate help can phone, or log a dispute online, and have the issue resolved independently.
The credit bureau says it works to resolve disputes within 30 days, in compliance with regulatory timelines.
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