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Credit Report FAQ

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Seeing your credit report


Credit agencies and how they get data

  • Your credit files are held by credit reference agencies. They hold files on nearly all UK consumers. The credit agencies gather and store information about people in order to provide other companies, such as lenders, with information that can assist them in profiling applications.

  • Credit reference agencies have a legal right to hold information about you that is already in the public domain such as county court judgments and bankruptcy orders. They also get name and address information from the electoral roll. The credit agencies also collect and supply other information about you under Schedule 2.1 of the Data Protection Act. This allows the credit agency to process this information if you have agreed to it. You will usually agree to this when you apply for credit. A section of the lender's application form will refer to a section that explains how your personal information will be used.


The different credit agencies



About credit scores and improving yours

  • You do not have just one credit score or credit rating. Each bank, credit card, store card, or finance company will use their own methods to set their own credit limits.

  • There are companies that build credit scoring models, the most widely used scoring models are those developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation who developed the FICO scores. Lenders may ask a company such as Fair Isaac to develop a risk model appropriate to their lending criteria.

  • The credit reference agencies may also commission a risk score model, not for their own purposes, but as a value added extra to provide lenders who source their credit reports from the credit reference agency. The credit agencies are competing against each other to be the preferred source for the lenders credit report information. Receiving a broadly defined credit score as part of the credit report may interest lenders who do not require a more specific credit score developed for themselves. The credit reference agencies may also offer this same general credit score to consumers searching their own credit report. Although lenders may have their own credit scoring model, some may receive the general guideline credit score offered by the credit agency. 

  • If you’ve never had any credit or loans, you may think you will automatically get a good credit score and that with no other credit or debt you would be a highly attractive proposition to lenders. However, lenders often prefer to give credit to people where their credit report shows some track record and experience at handling credit. Rather than no credit at all, lenders like to see a history of making repayments on time and in full. If you’ve never had a credit arrangement then they have no real way to know how you may handle it in the future. Some lenders may even reject applications on this basis. In this position you may need to start by applying for very small, low risk amounts of credit which a lender will consider an acceptable risk even without any credit history on your credit report. After building up a credit history showing you have repaid consistently and never missed any payment, your credit report will appear more positive to lenders in the future.
  • Make sure you are listed on the Voters Roll and if possible avoid moving address frequently. Most people move house once occasionally, but remain in the same house for a few years before moving again. If you appear to move address frequently a lender may consider you as being potentially harder to trace in the event that you default on a loan. If your name is not on the electoral roll, contact your Local Authority and ask them to add it. The Local Authority will then notify all credit reference agencies and the records are normally amended within 28 days of receipt.
  • Paying all your utility bills promptly and paying all store and credit cards promptly will give you a stronger credit history.

  • If a credit account which is shown on your credit report has been settled, but it is not shown as settled on your credit report, contact the lender concerned and ask them to notify all the credit reference agencies.

  • If you were the subject of a county court judgment (CCJ) or Scottish decree, and you have paid it, make sure it is shown as satisfied on your credit report. If it is not, contact the relevant court quoting the case number. They will arrange for the record to be updated and the credit reference agencies should be told within two weeks. If you believe a judgment or decree has been incorrectly registered, contact the court in question.

  • If you see your credit report and it shows that any companies have searched your report more than once as a result of the same credit application, you may want to ask the company to delete the duplicate searches. The companies that have access to searching the credit reference agency files can request their own duplicate searches to be deleted.

  • If your credit report shows you as being linked to addresses that you have never been connected with, you can ask the company who made the link to delete it. All the credit reference agencies will then be notified and records amended.

  • If other people who live in your home are recorded on your report, you can ask for these to be removed if you do not share any financial connection with them. A financial connection is, for example, a joint account, a joint debt, or joint tenancy with that person. If none of these apply, then you can contact the credit reference agency that lists the other person on your report and inform them of the changes you want to make.

  • If there is some adverse information on your credit report, and you can offer a valid explanation that you would like lenders to consider, you can contact the credit reference agency and ask for a Notice of Correction. This is a statement of up to 200 words which you can place on your own credit file, for example to explain why an account went overdrawn, or why you missed any repayments. Any future lender who searches your report will see the notice when they see the information it relates to.

  • Credit reference agencies generally advise people to avoid credit repair companies. If you need to make changes to your credit file, you can do so yourself by contacting the credit reference agencies. Credit repair companies usually charge more than the cost of getting your own credit report, and they cannot even make sure that changes are made to your credit report.

  • Do not run up unnecessary searches on your credit file by making credit applications which are rejected when they could have gone through first time if you were more careful with the information you provided to the lender. When making credit applications, ensure the information you provide is always complete and correct. Lenders want to see your full credit history to help them make a decision, so it is important to provide your full address details. Inaccuracies or omissions may affect your ability to obtain credit, and if you are declined, the lenders search will still show on your credit file.




Getting credit or being declined

  • The credit reference agency will not make the decision about your credit rating, although they may provide guidelines and scores which can help lenders to make decisions. But ultimately the company to whom you have applied for the finance will arrive at a credit rating decision based on their own internal scoring systems.

  • You cannot demand credit. It is a service which the lender can choose whether to provide. Most lenders will look at your credit records before making a decision. If you are declined credit the lender is not required to explain exactly how they arrived at the decision, but they are required to co-operate and give you an idea and tell you if they looked at your credit report with a credit reference agency. If they have looked at your credit report, then they must tell you the name and contact details of the credit reference agency that they used. You then have the right to write to the credit reference agency directly, and ask them for a copy of your credit report, or you may be able to see your credit report online.

  • You cannot ask the credit reference agency why you were declined credit - the agency cannot tell you that, they can only provide the information without comment. You can then look at your files and see if there are any factual errors which need correcting. If your credit record is weak or has problems, but the information is factually correct, then you cannot remove it from your files. You can, under some circumstances, make a comment which is recorded on your file, for example to explain the circumstances for a missed payment or any other adverse information.

  • Do not make repeated applications for credit once you have been declined. Each application you make is likely to result in a search of your credit report. These searches are registered for 12 months and could affect future applications. Find out from the lender why your application was declined before making further applications.
  • Remember that lenders decisions are based not just on risk, but profit. They look at whether the applicant matches their profile of a potentially profitable customer. Credit agency information also helps lenders choose profitable borrowers; each lender may be looking for different characteristics. Some may prefer borrowers who only repay the minimum amount on a credit card each month and look likely to maintain a high credit balance attracting a large amount of annual interest. If you are declined credit, it may be because the lender does not see you as a potentially profitable customer.

  • If you’ve never had any credit or loans, you may think you will automatically get a good credit score and that with no other credit or debt you would be a highly attractive proposition to lenders. However, lenders often prefer to give credit to people where their credit report shows some track record and experience at handling credit. Rather than no credit at all, lenders like to see a history of making repayments on time and in full. If you’ve never had a credit arrangement then they have no real way to know how you may handle it in the future. Some lenders may even reject applications on this basis. In this position you may need to start by applying for very small, low risk amounts of credit which a lender will consider an acceptable risk even without any credit history on your credit report. After building up a credit history showing you have repaid consistently and never missed any payment, your credit report will appear more positive to lenders in the future.

 

 


How lenders calculate your credit limit

  • Credit reference agencies do not set credit limits, they only provide the information which lenders use to set their own credit limits. Each lender will have their own criteria and use their own internal guidelines.

  • There are some general guidelines which some lenders may consider along with the information on your credit report. Lenders may calculate a short-term debt-to-income ratio, where they calculate your current short-term debt payments (excluding your mortgage) and divide this by your total annual income. Some lenders may refuse you credit if your short-term debt is more than 20% of your annual income. Another calculation is to add up your monthly bills (not including rent or mortgage and utilities) and divide the total by your gross income (before taxes) and here lenders may look for debt to be less than 35%. These are only guidelines and lenders are frequently revising their processes.

 


Change information on your credit report

  • If you see your credit report, and find factual errors on the report, you can contact the credit agency and ask them to change the information. The credit agency may ask you for proof of the change you request.

  • If you have adverse information on your credit report, and wish to explain the circumstances, you can. A Notice of Correction is a short (up to 200 words) explanatory note you can add to an entry on your credit report to explain the background to that information. Anyone searching your report in the future or who has seen it in the previous six months will see the Notice of Correction, and they must take account of it when you apply for credit.

  • If an address you have never lived at appears on your credit report, you may be able to get it removed. A linked address may appear on your report because you have had a financial connection with that address although you may never have lived there. If you have not had any connection with an address that is listed, contact the credit reference agency and ask them to contact the company that gave them the information and delete the link if appropriate.

  • Your address is supplied from the electoral roll. The electoral roll information supplied to credit reference agencies does not show the exact dates of residency but the dates your name was registered by the Local Authority. For example, you may have moved to an address but did not register yourself to vote there until a few months later. If your address information is incorrect it can be changed. If you have registered on the electoral roll recently, the credit agencies may be in the process of updating their records. If you think the electoral roll has been published incorrectly contact your local authority directly. If you've already done so and have documentation from the local authority confirming an amendment to the electoral roll, forward this to all credit reference agencies and they will update your report.

  • If a person with whom you have no financial connection appears on your credit report, you can ask for their details to be removed. The process is called disassociation. Once a disassociation has been created, lenders requesting your report will no longer see details of the disassociated person. The credit reference agency will write to you to confirm when this has been done.

  • If account information such as loan or credit cards information is wrong, it can be corrected. If you think any details are incorrect you should contact the organisation or lender concerned. The organisation will amend their records (if applicable) and tell all credit reference agencies they share data with of the changes.

  • Credit reference agencies keep a record of defaulted accounts for six years from the date the lender decided you had broken the terms of the agreement (the ‘defaulted' date). The lender will have told you that the account was to be classed as being in default. The current balance on a defaulted account should show if payments have been made since the default, or if the account has now been fully paid. If you have paid, you should obtain evidence from the lender to confirm you have paid, and then write to the credit reference agency with the proof and ask them to show your payment on your credit report.

  • If your credit report shows a search against you by a company you know nothing about, start by contacting the organisation who made the search and ask for further details. If the organisation agrees to remove a search they will tell the credit reference agencies. It may be that the search is in the name of a finance company used by another company which you may know.


Credit blacklists

  • Credit reference agencies do not have any such thing as a blacklist. Credit agencies simply keep factual records. These records show how promptly people pay their accounts, and whether they miss payments or get into arrears. Lenders decide for themselves on the basis of what they see in your credit report, and the information that you have provided to them, whether to accept your application.


Other people on your files

  • Your credit report will normally only contain information about you.

  • Your credit report may also show the name of anyone you share a financial connection with. Lenders will see the financial information in these other names and may use this when making a lending decision. If you believe that information in another name has caused a lender to refuse you credit, you may wish to ask the other person to request their credit report but they do not have to, nor do they have to show you their credit report. If your credit report shows a financial connection that you believe is not correct, you can contact the credit reference agency and ask them to remove it.

  • Can someone else's debts affect your credit score? Credit reports are produced on people not addresses, and people's credit reports are only linked when they apply for joint credit facilities or act as guarantors for one another. So unless you have entered into that sort of financial arrangement, then any debts another person has won't affect your creditworthiness, whether or not these debts are registered at your address.



Electoral Role and addresses


How often data is updated


What is in a credit report

  • A credit report typically shows your name and both current and previous known addresses. Any changes to your name, such as through marriage, may be shown. A credit report can list your current credit agreements with banks, mortgage lenders, store cards, and credit cards. How you repay your credit, and the outstanding credit balances can be shown. Your credit records can show if you have defaulted on any credit agreements, paid late, acquired any county court judgments, or Scottish Decrees, or been the subject of bankruptcy.

  • If an organisation has made a search, a record will be shown on your credit report but only the organisation concerned knows whether your application was accepted or refused. A credit report does not show whether you have been accepted or turned down for credit.

  • Information which does not appear on your credit report includes:
    Savings accounts
    Employment records
    Student loan information
    Pension details
    Salary details
    Property status
    Credit ratings or credit scores
    Council tax payments
    Criminal records
    Child Support Agency information

  • Payment information is provided by lenders. However, not all your payment information may appear on your credit report. Some organisations only provide details of accounts where payments are behind. If you have not fallen behind with your payments, this may explain why the credit agency does not hold information on the account, or the organisation in question may not provide account details to the credit reference agency.




Shopping around for credit

  • Shopping around for the best credit deal should not generate an abnormal number of searches on your credit report. This is because a credit search should only be conducted in response to an actual application for credit. When shopping around, people usually obtain basic details of offers from a range of lenders, then make an application to those considered to be the best deal.

  • Although shopping around for the best credit deal should not result in searches on your credit report, if you proceed to apply for the loan or credit facility, then the lender will probably search your credit report. Although a high number of searches is not necessarily adverse, it may suggest to lenders that you are making lots of applications for credit either because you are constantly being refused by other lenders, or if you are being accepted, then you could appear to be over committing by taking credit from lots of sources at the same time. Each lender will choose how they interpret the searches on your credit record, an how recent the searches are in relation to the credit application they are considering.

 




What are aliases

  • An alias is any other name you have been known by, for example if you have changed your name when getting married. As a result any financial information in these names can also appear on your credit report. Credit reference agencies create aliases from the information available to them and your credit report may also show you how they know about the other name.



Previous searches on you

  • When you apply for credit the company may have terms and conditions which you are required to agree to and which give them permission to use a credit reference agency. Each time a company gets a credit report on you, a record is kept by the credit reference agency, and the search is listed on your credit report.

  • Although a high number of searches is not necessarily adverse, it may suggest to lenders that you are either shopping around for credit, or that you are making lots of applications and being refused by other lenders. It could also concern lenders if they think you may be being accepted for credit by other lenders and could be over committing if you are taking credit from lots of sources at the same time. Each lender will choose how they interpret the searches on your credit record, an how recent the searches are in relation to the credit application they are considering.

  • If your credit report shows a search against you by a company you know nothing about, start by contacting the organisation who made the search and ask for further details. If the organisation agrees to remove a search they will tell the credit reference agencies. It may be that the search is in the name of a finance company used by another company which you may know.



Credit repair companies

  • Credit reference agencies generally advise people to avoid credit repair companies. If you need to make changes to your credit file, you can do so yourself by contacting the credit reference agencies. Credit repair companies usually charge more than the cost of getting your own credit report, and they cannot even make sure that changes are made to your credit report.

 



Help if you are in debt

  • There are organisations that can help you with your debt problems. You can contact them for free, confidential, and independent advice.

  • Citizen's Advice is a registered charity providing free, independent and confidential advice from more than 700 locations called Citizen's Advice Bureaux throughout the UK. To find your local branch contact the Citizen's Advice Bureau website at www.adviceguide.org.uk.

  • The Consumer Credit Counselling Service is a registered charity providing free and confidential support and money management assistance to financially distressed families and individuals. They provide help on budgeting and how to use credit wisely. To contact them visit their website at www.cccs.co.uk.

  • National Debtline is a helpline that provides free, confidential and independent advice on how to deal with debt problems. You can contact them by visiting their website at www.nationaldebtline.co.uk.



ID fraud

  • Don't ignore any signs of identity fraud; it won't go away and the problems will get harder to solve the longer it goes on. There are a number of things that you can do immediately upon discovering your identity has been stolen.

  • Report the incident to the police, especially if it involves stolen identification documents. Insist on receiving a crime reference number, or some documentation to record the incident.

  • Contact the CIFAS Protective Registration Service and get a CIFAS entry put on your report for protection. The CIFAS website is www.cifas.org.uk.

  • Contact all the organisations involved. Keep a written record of all your actions, for example who you spoke to and the date and time, and copies of letters sent and received.

  • If a passport or driving licence is stolen or lost then report it to the authorities as soon as you discover the loss. Also report any suspicious circumstances.

  • Report all stolen cheques or cards to the issuers, and request new ones. Follow up telephone calls with written notification. Get new cards, account numbers, and PINs if you use credit or other plastic cards to access banking services. Do not continue to use a compromised PIN.

  • Notify the Post Office if you suspect mail theft or suspect a mail redirection has been fraudulently set up on your address. They have an investigations unit that can help you.

  • If you suspect your personal information has been used by someone else requesting a copy of your credit report to see any credit applications and accounts opened in your name. You can then ask the credit reference agency to help you to liaise with the lenders involved and make sure you are not affected by the fraud. If the fraudster is still using your details, the credit reference agency may be able to add a security feature to your credit report.


CCJs

  • CCJ is an abbreviation for County Court Judgment. This occurs when someone is taken to court and the judge gives a judgment against them for an amount owed, and possibly additional costs.

  • If you have CCJs The only information the credit reference agency will have is the information they show on the credit report. They have no further information. If you have further queries, contact the court concerned, providing them with the case number. The address details of the court concerned should be shown on the credit report.

  • There are different types of judgments. In England and Wales, money judgments are issued in the county courts, so they are called county court judgments or CCJs. Judgments issued in Scotland are referred to as decrees and are issued through the Sheriff's Courts. Northern Ireland judgments are issued by the Northern Ireland Court Service. They were formerly issued by the Enforcement of Judgments Office.

  • If you pay your county court judgment in full within one month of the judgment date, it will be removed from the register. If a county court judgment which you paid within one month is shown, if you have evidence of the date you paid in full, you can apply to the court to have the judgment removed. Unpaid CCJs remain on your credit report for 6 years from the date of judgment. If the amount was paid more than one month after the judgment, you can apply to the County Court for a certificate to show that you paid and the judgment is 'Satisfied'. You can then provide copies of this to the credit reference agencies, and your credit report will still show the CCJ for 6 years but with the status showing as 'Satisfied'.

 

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