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How your credit report can protect you

How would you know if a fraudster stole your identity and opened a bank account in your name? It’s a frightening prospect and one victim who contacted us only found it had happened to him when he checked his credit report.

The man contacted us to tell us about the experience. He was lucky. He found out within weeks of the bogus account being set up and was able to act before losing any money. But others might not be so fortunate.

Checking your credit report can help protect you from ID fraud – as well as ensuring you’re in good financial health.

So we were concerned when our investigation into attitudes toward credit reports revealed that more than half of the 1,067 people we surveyed have never checked theirs.

The information in your report goes a long way to helping lenders decide if they will agree to lend to you or not, so if there are any errors, you could be left unable to access the best deals on credit cards, loans and mortgages.

Myths about credit reports

Our survey also found widespread confusion about what information is contained within the report and how it impacts on lending decisions.

A whopping 77% of those we surveyed, incorrectly believe there is an ominous-sounding credit ‘blacklist’ that bans individuals from getting any form of credit at all.

And some 60% think that the credit reference agencies, such as Experian, Equifax and Callcredit, make actual lending decisions (they don’t), and more than half think that checking your report too often will damage your credit rating (it won’t).

How to check your credit report

Another surprising stat we found was that 26% of those who hadn’t checked their report, said it was because they were unsure how to.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can find out. You have a legal right to get what’s called your statutory report for just £2. This will give you a snapshot of your credit history but no credit score.

If you want a score as well, plus unlimited access to your credit report, you’ll have to pay around £15 a month to Equifax and Experian for a subscription service (after a month trial).

But you can get your credit report (including a score) for free from Noddle.co.uk (part of Callcredit) or Clearscore.com.

It’s worth saying that the scores agencies advertise as part of their subscription services are based only on the information they have in your report. This differs between the three main agencies as as not all lenders share their information with all three.

Have you ever checked your credit report? If not, we’d be interested to know what is stopping you.

Comments

This comment was removed at the request of the user

What’s stopping me? Having never done it in my life, it doesn’t enter into my thought patterns. If I need to know, I’ll find out. Until then, I’ll check my finances regularly and spend my time doing all those things I have left undone that I ought to have done, plus a few others as well.

It would be nice to have the numbers so we could check whether such astonishment and concern were justified. “More than half of the 1,067 people we surveyed have never checked” their credit ratings: are we talking 51%, 75%, 91%, or what?

I am in the same category as Vynor and prefer to leave the ratings agencies undisturbed rather than adding to any information they might already have on me. And how would I know which of the three has a file on me?

I am also in the same category as Vynor and John Ward and do not check my credit ratings. Don’t know about Duncan but so far 75% of posters would not check their credit rating so it must be even worse than Which? think !!! I would also not want to add to any information they might have about me.

I am not likely to need a loan, have sufficient credit cards that are paid off every month and should have a good credit rating. So why on earth would I want to pay £15 a month to check it? The mind boggles.

I also can’t understand how checking could prevent identity theft unless the agencies know every one of your accounts and that is a scary thought.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Is this an advert for contributing to the credit reference agencies? What is the downside to getting “free” information from Noddle or Clearscore – only charities give things away for free. Perhaps Which? could do another report on this, comparing the agencies – paid for and free – and looking at just what proportion of people really need to know their credit score, and how many have discovered identity theft this way.

I, like I imagine John, Vynor, Alfa and Duncan, have control of my finances and have not felt the need to check my credit rating, nor appear to have suffered because of it. So that’s 80%, and perhaps 100%, so far on this Convo. I do worry about surveys that do not give the basis on which they are conducted – information given to and questions asked of those surveyed – and by whom? Which? or subbed out to Populus ( who may pay people to complete its surveys).

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Check mine regularly once a month, better safe than sorry!!

Sandra,

Having never felt the need to do a credit check, I am curious to know what you get out of doing one on a regular basis.

What information do you get from checking and how can it help you detect fraud?

Also, how much information does the agency hold about you and did you volunteer that information or did the agency acquire it from elsewhere?

You may like to watch this little video from the BBC on our credit report story with Alex Neill: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36349025

I am not surprised at the responses [although it might have been a carefully selected sample of interviews]. It would be good if Which? could now find out why getting a report with credit score costs around £15 a month.

And why Which? suggest that you might need to check your credit report costing up to £180 a year, year in year out, when I suspect most people have absolutely no need to know their credit ratings. £180 if you are short of money might be put to better use?

Commercial Which? offers cheaper version?

Someone has to to arrange to repay the new mortgage to Barclays to pay for the HQ refurbishment. Its nice to be so close to Regents Park but I must admit to being concerned that the situation beside a very busy intersection would be exposing staff to huge amounts of traffic pollution. Internally though the building seems fine to me – though I have never seen the canteen.

I still think staff in the Bristol and Hertford offices are getting a nicer environment and cost the charity roughly £5000 per person less at the junior grades.

It would have helped, given that the BBC did not cover it , to know Alex Neill was female as I waited for him to appear. The BBC survey was very clear on how scientifically it was based and it seems they included in everyone who they approached …

Anyway another Conversation based on a survey actually by Which? that we cannot access for leading questions etc.. I am not sure why Which? perseveres in ignoring the complaints about surveys that seem solely devoted to generating an agenda or article.

Incidentally and in the tradition of shock rather than informing – dramatically 50% of the links do not work.