COVID-19 has led to an increased awareness of Financial Wellness
11/12/2020 | 06:00am EST
TORONTO, Nov. 12, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- People are checking their credit reports and scores more frequently and are taking identity theft more seriously as compared to previous years, according to a recent consumer survey conducted by Equifax Canada.
COVID-19 has caused many people to take a closer look at their financial situation, which is resulting in an increased understanding about their relationship with credit. Within the last 12 months, 71 per cent of survey respondents have checked their credit report, including 57 per cent in the last month. Younger adults (under age 55) and Quebecers were significantly more likely to have checked their credit reports on a regular basis. This is a significant shift for consumers when considering 67 per cent of survey respondents ‘rarely or never checked their credit reports’ according to a similar survey conducted by Equifax in 2016.
“The pandemic has clearly impacted everyone so much that more people feel the need to assess their financial situation,” said Rebecca Oakes, Equifax Canada’s AVP of Advanced Analytics. “Checking your credit reports and obtaining credit scores is a good place to start. It’s actually encouraging to see a higher percentage of people checking their credit reports and scores now compared to a few years ago.”
Equifax Canada data indicates that payment deferrals have been utilized with over 3 million consumers taking a payment deferral since the pandemic started. Thus far, 14 per cent of open mortgages have had at least one month of payment deferral (approximately 900,000 deferred mortgages) and two per cent of open credit cards have had at least one month of payment deferral (approximately 1.2 million deferred credit cards). About half of deferred mortgages have had continued deferred payments for the past four months, while credit cards have had a shorter deferral duration of one or two months.
CREDIT SCORES ALSO CHECKED MORE FREQUENTLY
In addition to checking their credit reports, survey respondents indicated they are obtaining their credit scores more frequently. More than half (54 per cent) said they obtain their score at least annually, as compared to 48 per cent a year ago. Younger adults (those aged 18-34) are significantly more likely to check their credit scores monthly versus those over the age of 35 (37 per cent in 2020 vs. 27 per cent in 2019).
“COVID-19 has caused many Canadian households to develop a better understanding of their finances on the fly,” said Keith Emery, Co-CEO of Credit Canada. “Knowing what’s in your credit reports and how credit scores are calculated are important steps towards improved financial wellness. We always caution people to avoid anyone offering to ‘fix’ your credit score. The best road to a healthy credit score is making bill payments on time. It’s as simple as that.”
STEPS TO PREVENTING IDENTITY THEFT
Equifax data collected and analyzed from its consortium of lenders and industry partners also indicates that fraudsters and identity thieves are more active and looking to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis. Since the pandemic began, the application fraud rate has increased by 43 per cent and the deposit account fraud rate rose by 53 per cent peaking in April and May respectively.
Fortunately, survey results indicate that Canadians continue to take the threat of fraud and identity theft seriously. When comparing survey results to four years ago the numbers are trending in the right direction. More people are taking precautionary steps to help protect against fraud and identity theft.
Steps Taken by Consumers
Review credit card statements on receipt for fraudulent activity
Check my credit report
Avoid using public Wi-Fi
Update security passwords
“Identity thieves and fraudsters are quick to take advantage of any crisis,” said Oakes. “COVID-19 has forced many people to work online from home, buy their groceries online, and in a lot of cases stay socially connected to friends and family online. Spending more time online safely requires making sure you are taking steps to help protect yourself. Checking your credit report regularly remains one of the best ways to recognize and help protect against fraud and identity theft.”
To learn more about fraud prevention and how credit works, consumers are encouraged to visit Equifax Canada’s education hub. The site offers insights on how different actions may affect their credit scores and provides resources to help improve their financial wellness.
*An online survey of 1,539 Canadians was completed between September 11-13, 2020, using Leger’s online panel. The margin of error for this study was +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.
About Equifax At Equifax (NYSE: EFX), we believe knowledge drives progress. As a global data, analytics, and technology company, we play an essential role in the global economy by helping financial institutions, companies, employees, and government agencies make critical decisions with greater confidence. Our unique blend of differentiated data, analytics, and cloud technology drives insights to power decisions to move people forward. Headquartered in Atlanta and supported by more than 11,000 employees worldwide, Equifax operates or has investments in 25 countries in North America, Central and South America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific region. For more information, visit Equifax.ca.
About Credit Canada Credit Canada is a not-for-profit credit counselling agency providing free and confidential debt and credit counselling, personal debt management, debt consolidation and resolutions, as well as preventative counselling, educational seminars, and free tips and tools in the areas of budgeting, money management, and financial goal-setting. Credit Canada is Canada’s first and longest-standing credit counselling agency and a leader in financial wellness, helping Canadians successfully manage their debt since 1966. Please visit www.creditcanada.com for more information and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Andrew Findlater SELECT Public Relations firstname.lastname@example.org (647) 444-1197