The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Need a loan? Then take a look at your credit file first
EVERYONE has a legal right to see their credit file – going back up to six years.
It is wise to do this well before applying for a mortgage, or any type of credit or loan. This is so that any adverse data or mistakes can be corrected well in advance.
It can take up to a month to update. If a fraudulent application for credit has been made in your name, this will also be flagged.
To obtain a credit history for free online, Experian – the largest agency – has a free Credit Matcher service. Noddle.co.uk (part of Callcredit) and Clearscore.com (which uses Equifax data) both offer data for free online.
Those without access to the internet can get their statutory credit file by post from Callcredit, Experian and Equifax for £2 each.
It is a good idea to check the information held with all three agencies as they may hold data from different financial providers.
Jacqueline Dewey, managing director at Noddle, says consumers should view their credit file like a financial passport. She says: ‘This is the data used to make important financial decisions which affect your life, such as a new mortgage, car loan or mobile phone contract. You want to be sure everything on there is correct and also that your file – and credit score – is in the best possible shape.’
Agencies also offer extra services, typically for a monthly fee of about £15, such as Equifax’s Credit Report and Score and Experian’s CreditExpert. Noddle Alerts and Web Watch costs £30 a year. These types of service alert you when there are changes made to your credit file or searches are made in your name. Only sign up to the fee charging service if you understand what you are getting. Do not be lured in by a ‘free’ initial offer.
Any mistakes must be first pointed out with the bank or lender that gave the data to the credit reference agency.
If the financial provider agrees the information is incorrect – or if a credit application was made fraudulently in your name – this will be changed or removed within 28 days.
The agencies cannot remove data which the lender says is correct. But consumers may be able to add a ‘notice of correction’ for future lenders about a particular issue on their file. For example, that a mortgage payment was missed because of an unexpected redundancy.