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Credit Reports Explained

Your credit report is a confidential document that records your credit history: your name(s), address(es) and any associates (such as a joint account), as well as your creditors and payments. This helps them to see whether you can afford further credit and if you're likely to keep up your payments.

Whenever you apply for credit, the lender will check your credit report before making a decision. So what do you need to look out for to help them decide in your favour?

All three credit reference agencies: Equifax, Experian and Callcredit, only hold facts about people, they cannot blacklist anyone. Different lenders may use different information to make a decision about you, dependant on their specific lending criteria. Bad credit loans for example will have different rules compared to a high street loan.

So what information does your credit report hold?

Your personal details

The first section of your credit report contains your name, address and date of birth. It will also have any other names you might be known by (for example your maiden name), any other addresses you have lived at in the last six years and any other people you have made a joint application with (for example a spouse). It will also show any court judgements, bankruptcies and voluntary arrangements. If any of this information is incorrect, you should contact the credit reference agency.

Credit account information

All of the UK’s major lenders share the details of their customers’ credit agreements through one or more of the three credit reference agencies. This information belongs to the lenders who provided it and is updated every month. The credit reference agencies can’t change any of the details supplied without the lenders’ permission.

Every credit account includes a list of status codes for the last six years, which show whether your accounts are settled, up to date, overdrawn, late or in default, meaning you broke the credit agreement and it has been cancelled. It will also show if the lender has sold the debt to a third party, has agreed to vary payments or a debt management programme, believes you have moved without providing a new address or believes you have died. If any of this information is incorrect, you should contact the lender in question.

Previous searches

A previous search, or footprint, shows that a lender has looked at your report to check your identity or credit history. These can show unusual credit activity, such as a number of applications in a short time, and can help identify attempted fraud. Records of previous searches are kept on file for 12 months, and can only be removed with the permission of the company that made it.

Having too many previous searches on your file could deter lenders from approving your application, so check to make sure you recognise all of them. If you don’t think a search record is correct, you should contact the lender in question.

GAIN information

The Gone Away Information Network (GAIN) shares information about debtors who have moved without giving a new address. This includes the address the customer was last known at and any other address the customer has been recorded at since.

If you think any GAIN information on your report is wrong, contact the lender who provided it and ask them to update their credit reference agencies. Alternatively, get in touch with the credit reference agency and they can contact the lender for you.

CIFAS information

CIFAS is the UK’s fraud prevention service. It was developed to detect and prevent fraud and to help stop people’s names, addresses or other details being used by fraudsters to get goods and services such as credit.

A CIFAS warning on your file doesn’t mean that you have been accused of fraud. It could mean that others have tried to use your personal information, however, so lenders will take extra precautions such as contacting you to ensure your application is genuine.

Notices of correction

These are short explanatory notes of up to 200 words that you can attach to any entry on your file to explain the circumstances surrounding the status. They are visible to any lender searching your file.

You can add these to your credit report by visiting the credit reference agency’s website or writing to them, quoting the entry reference number and the text you want to attach. You can’t add a statement that is unjustified, defamatory or libellous.

Contacting the credit reference agencies

Equifax Plc,
Credit File Advice Service,
PO Box 1140,
Bradford,
BD1 5US
Experian Limited,
Consumer Help Service,
PO Box 8000,
Nottingham,
NG1 5GX
Callcredit Plc,
Consumer Services Team,
PO Box 491,
Leeds,
LS1 5XX

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