Have you been given the credit rating runaround?

by , Money Editor Money 30 January 2013
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If you’re still in the market for a New Year’s resolution, you could do worse than joining the minority of people who check their credit file every six months. Yet, tracking down your £2 credit report is often too difficult.

Credit report on typewriter

While it may sound like an unnecessary bind, staying on top of your credit report is the best way to protect yourself against the growing risk of identity fraud.

Cases of ID fraud – where someone steals the personal details of another individual and uses their identity to apply for goods and financial products – leapt 16.5% in the first nine months of 2012, according to the UK’s fraud prevention service CIFAS. And while your bank should ultimately cover you for any losses if you’re a victim of fraud, disentangling yourself can be a tricky and lengthy process.

Checking your credit report

Although checking your credit report should be a five-minute job, the bad news is that it’s still not nearly as straightforward as it should be. For a start, everyone in the UK has three credit reports, provided by each of the three credit reference agencies – Experian, Equifax and Call Credit. To be sure you’ve got the full picture, you’ll need to order your report from each of these agencies – a service that isn’t free.

And while the agencies are obliged to make people’s credit reports available for just £2 – either online or by post – they all seem to work hard to distract customers from this fact, instead attempting to persuade them to sign up to a free trial of their premium credit checking services, which costs up to £15 a month.

Getting an Experian credit report

Experian is the worst offender. While it lets people know about its £2 report on its website homepage, it appears to exert itself to ensure no one lands on this page. One of the ways it does this is by advertising in search engines, popping up at the top of the page if you search for terms such as ‘credit report’ or ‘credit rating.’

Click on these sponsored links and you’ll end up on a page that has no mention of the £2 report. Instead, the message that screams from the page is ‘GET YOUR FREE EXPERIAN CREDIT REPORT AND SCORE*’. The asterisk points out that this is only free for the first 30 days, after which you’ll have to pay. But there are no details of how much.

If you’re smart enough to find the application page for your £2 report, you’ll have to wait for a password to be posted to you – even though you can see it instantly with the premium service.

Free credit reports?

Call Credit does at least offer a genuinely free service – called Noddle. However, it too tries to sign customers up to its premium service – and if you head down this route, there’s no mention of how much it costs until after you’ve entered your card details.

Equifax is the best of the bunch – with links to your ‘£2 statutory report’ at the top and bottom of its homepage. However, it still seems to works as hard as it can to get you to sign up for its £8.99 a month service – plastering a call to get your credit report for ‘free’ across the middle of the page.

The credit reference agencies hold positions of great privilege in the UK. They operate in a market that’s practically closed to new competitors, providing a service that banks, utility firms and individuals can’t live without. If any of them are looking for a New Year’s resolution, perhaps they might consider a commitment to give individuals access to their data for free.

17 comments

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Rod

It’s scandalous that the public has to pay in order to check that credit files are accurate.

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peter o

Hi James,

I signed up for a Noddle account with Call Credit recently. I hadn’t heard of this free credit report service before reading your post, so many thanks for that!

I don’t think there are any catches. Even so, Noddle asks you to surrender the details of a payment card when you register. Aparently this is only to verify your identity. They claim they won’t charge your card for anything unless you sign up for their premium services. However, I can’t see why payment details are necessary if you are just signing up for a free service. Also, I should mention that your payment card details remain hidden once your account is live. That’s a bit odd too.

The Noddle credit report is indeed free and is essentially an online version of Call Credit’s £2 statutory credit report. You can download the credit report from your Noddle account but strangely it’s only obtainable in a ‘user unfriendly’ XML format.

Credit report information held on the Noddle site is updated monthly and you can view your credit file as many times as you like (for free). However, if you don’t login to Noddle and check you credit file again after 3 months has elapsed, your account will be deactivated and you may have to sign up all over again. So Noddle offers many pluses and just a few niggling minuses.

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Rod

“You can download the credit report from your Noddle account but strangely it’s only obtainable in a ‘user unfriendly’ XML format.”

I save mine as an html page.

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peter o

OK, I’ve got it. Google Chrome users can download their Noddle Credit Report as a PDF file.
Log on to noddle.co.uk, select “Print Report” on the Noddle front page. When Google Chrome’s Print menu pops up, look for Destination, click on the “Change…” tab and finally select “Save as PDF”.

My Credit Report runs to 9 pages in length and so I’m going to save the trees.

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Sue P

I have tried to register with Noddle but can’t get past the box for a previous postcode which needs
to be so that 6-8 characters long. My previous 2 codes have only 5 characters so that’s the end of that !

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Rod

I have just sent them feedback for you on this issue. I’ll post back if I hear anything.

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Rod

Had a response from Noddle :-

“Hi,

Thanks for your email. Our website will only accept postcodes which are between 6 and 8 characters long. If it is 5 digits long, I’d recommend putting a space in between it – this should work.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Thanks,
The Noddle Team”

It seems likely that the space in the postcode counts as a character (eg M1 1AA counts as 6 characters).

Hope this helps.
Rod

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Sue P

Thanks Rod, I will try that, perhaps a headache tablet first though before I start !

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Sue P

Hi Rod,thanks to you I got through the process with Noddle,spacing the postcodes.
Only then to be told that they were unable to verify and validate my identity and therefore
could not provide my credit report !

I phoned the local council to check the electoral roll, I’m not on it,despite having had voting
cards posted to me for the last 3 years.

Glad I took that headache tablet earlier.

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Rod

Sounds like something you need to get sorted out; it could have consequences for other financial applications.

Seems odd that you have been receiving voting cards, though.

In the longer run it’s, perhaps, a good thing you have discovered the problem before it causes any real problems for you – or has it already, without your knowledge?

Hope you are able to resolve the problem quickly, anyway.

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P2429

I also had this same problem with one of the other credit agencies, they were unable to validate my address because the address on the debit card did not match the my current address (My fault) I did not change it. After sorting that little issue. I had no problems obtaining reports from all three credit reference agencies. I would still look into it further. Hope this helps.

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Dawn

Thank you very much I took all that you have spoken about in mind, and signing up and printing my report went well.

Just need to cancelle the 30 day trial with equifax when ive spoken to them to finish off my sign up with them, entered bank details only to be told i have to phone and answer more questions with them!!!.As ive entered my card details i will have to phone.
Then cancelle my 30 trial with experian. And cancelle card details

WISH I HAD READ YOUR ARTICAL FIRST.
Regards Dawn

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SueM

I wanted to get my free credit report from all three agencies to check my status after identity fraud a month or so ago. The link in the article were really useful in getting to the right page on each website but Equifax then instructed me to ring them (on on a 0844 number) to be told to scan in two forms of ID and send it to them. Our scanner is not currently connected to a computer and even if it was I feel this is too much to ask. The others haven’t needed the same so I declined and feel aggrieved that I am missing out on checking all three agencies.

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Rod

Credit reports are not usually free unless you sign up to regular reports at inflated prices.

Your credit report must be provided by the agencies on payment of a statutory maximum fee of £2.00 but if you can’t get it online then write to them enclosing the £2 fee. You can normally be identified electronically if you are on the electoral roll at your current address so further ID should not be necessary.

I think you may have been had – the cost of the 0844 call was probably more than the £2 statutory maximum fee.

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Stuart Carroll

My experience in obtaining my credit report from Experian was appalling. After finally completing the application process – with considerable effort – and providing my card details for the online report I was informed there was a problem with the service and I couldn’t see the report.

Instead – and despite the message saying the payment was complete – I would need to contact customer services and provided with a mail address only, no phone number and no email.

Appalling.

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paul

Just tried to buy my Equifax statutory report, and it failed at the last stage, taking payment reporting “credit card data is not being approved. Please ensure that you are using a credit card in your own name which is billed to your current address”

There’s nothing wrong with my card or address and it will not allow me to proceed, so I’m stuck. On the way, it made it very unclear how to prevent unsolicited marketing, so all in all I do not have my statutory report and it was an unpleasant experience and a waste of my time. Surely they must be in breach of some kind of law. Experian was not much better, but I think I will be receiving one, as it did take a payment.

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Kate

I would like to see Which take this up as a issue to investigate. These three companies make decisions on peoples lives but how often do they get it wrong? How does it fit into the data protection act? They collect negative rather than positive information. Why so? Utility companies are now sharing information with them too. Are companies which claim to look after your credit report details worthwhile ? They just seem so mysterious and annonymous but have the potential to ruin your life.

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