Beware of slick pitches for credit services:...
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Oct 06, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Beware of slick pitches for credit services: Roseman

Canada's credit bureaus provide free credit reports by mail. But they also promote paid monthly services, which you may not want and can't stop once you start

OurWindsor.Ca

Last February, Marshall Sokoloff subscribed for one month of credit monitoring services from TransUnion Canada, thinking there might be something derogatory on his credit report.

He cancelled by phone three weeks later after finding nothing suspicious. But he found a second $16.95 charge on his credit card statement in March.

“I contacted TransUnion and was assured that they were ‘just switching over their software and had encountered some erroneous billings.’ They said the charges would be reversed in short order. They never were,” he told me in early September.

His credit card expired in late March, but the charges didn’t end. He found a $16.95 charge put through on April 14 to his new card with a new number.

“My credit card issuer said they would accept charges made on old number if they were once made legitimately. They suggested I call the vendor to get this fixed.”

Sokoloff called TransUnion, but found a $16.95 charge on June 25 and another on Aug. 27.

“I’ve spent over three hours on the phone with them (cutting into work time). Twice, their unauthorized charges have pushed me over my balance limit, causing me to incur extra charges,” he said.

“Please help me. This has cost me a small fortune and nothing I do seems to make it stop. Ironic that a company whose service I hired to protect my credit score is now endangering it.”

Canada’s two credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, collect information about your credit history and use it to create a credit score. They help reduce risk for credit granters, such as banks, car dealers and mortgage lenders.

They also work with consumers who want to check their credit history or correct errors. But their service sometimes falls short, as in this case.

Dave Blumberg, TransUnion’s international public relations director in Chicago, responded to my email on Sept. 5. But a full refund for Sokoloff was not authorized until Oct. 2.

“We apologize for the delay,” Blumberg said, “but our customer service department had been reviewing the file and working with the consumer the last few weeks to resolve any issues.”

In Ontario, credit bureaus are required to give you a free copy of your credit report. You can request one on their automated phone systems: Equifax at 1-800-465-7166 and TransUnion at 1-800-663-9980.

Bruce Cohen orders his credit report from both bureaus each year. He tried doing a phone request for the first time.

“The Equifax line was easy to use. TransUnion’s wasn’t,” he said.

TransUnion couldn’t process his phone request. The same thing happened to me when I tried calling the company to get my credit report. (I had no problems with Equifax.)

Cohen could have sent a letter. But to save time, he went to TransUnion’s website.

He clicked a button on the home page, “Get your credit report and score.” That led him to a series of questions, including a request for his credit card number.

“I was suspicious, but based on experience with other online merchants, I figured I’d be able to void any purchase before it went through,” he said. “Alas, there was no such opportunity.

“TU immediately processed my order without even informing me of how much I owed. I learned that it was $16.95 only from the receipt sent by email.”

He called TransUnion, but was told the purchase couldn’t be reversed. So, he cancelled the credit monitoring service (which came with his free credit report and score) when it expired on Oct. 30.

I helped him get the $16.95 refund that had previously been turned down. He blamed TransUnion for not clearly posting its fee up front and not giving users a chance to kill the transaction before it was processed.

Cohen later saw small print at the bottom of the home page, which said, “Find out how to qualify for a free copy of your consumer disclosure.” That would have led him to the right spot.

If you plan to order a credit report, make sure it is free and comes by mail. Avoid offers of “instant online access,” which indicates a paid monthly service that you may find hard to cancel.

Toronto Star

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