Credit scoring agencies will provide you with your credit report and score, allowing you to see how your credit history has affected your lending profile.
There are three main credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian and each compiles similar but sometimes varying information.
Your credit report affects how likely you are to receive credit and be accepted for a variety of products such as credit cards, mortgages, loans, bank accounts and even mobile phone and gas and electricity contracts.
However, there are times when your credit report will display something that doesn't seem right, such as a missed bill payment that you had paid on time, or a technical error by the bank that made it look like you were going too far into your overdraft. It is even worth checking that previous addresses are correct, if they are shown (Equifax has more detail than the others).
You should check your credit report with the three main credit agencies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. With each, you'll need to answer some specific questions about your recent credit activities to prove who you are.
TransUnion allows you to see your statutory report for free online. You get emailed a code to confirm your ID. Once entered you answer the four personal questions about your finances and then get access straight away. You can view the report online or download a PDF.
Equifax asks for a credit card number and that you approve a zero payment. It tries to lead you into signing up for its monthly fee of £7.95. Make sure you don't agree to that or cancel it at once, otherwise it will take payment without a second authorisation.
Experian sends two emails and then a letter in the post with your online passkey. That can take a week. To see your Experian credit report immediately, you need to sign up for the £14.99 a month service and immediately cancel it during the first month, which is free.
There are a range of errors that could crop up in your credit report. Incorrect information could be included, while accurate material might be missing.
For example, if you received a County Court Judgment (CCJ) and settled it within the required time (one month usually), it should not appear on your record. However, the register or one of the credit reference agencies might make an administrative error or have not received the payment information from the creditors.
It's worth noting, however, that these types of errors are rare. Even so, it's important to check your credit report, as the consequences could be severe if an error has been sitting there for a long time.
Other errors could be a missed bill payment that you managed to pay on time, or even a credit card's activity being not being recorded, giving the impression that you have no financial history. Check that your previous addresses are correct and that your electoral roll information tallies.
Fraudulent activity and technical errors can also impact on your credit score, not just your personal finances.
If your bank makes an error that affects your finances, such as displaying the wrong amount of money in your account, this could hurt your credit score, especially if they take some time to fix it.
If somebody has used your credit card without your knowledge, this could also be problematic for your credit score if you do not resolve the issue immediately.
If you do find an error in your credit report, it's important to dispute credit report discrepancies quickly:
Your first port of call should be the provider or creditor the error was associated with. So if your credit card company recorded that you missed a payment and you want to dispute that, call up the credit card company.
You should have evidence of the error, so any receipts or statements will be useful.
If the credit card company agrees that it was an error, they have to update their records within a one-month period, and this update goes out to the credit reference agency.
However, if the credit card company says that they have no record of the error and everything is correct on their side, then speak to the credit reference agency.
They will review the error and make the relevant changes after an investigation into the dispute.
You should then also check your credit report with the other credit reference agencies to ensure that they too do not have the same error.
Unfortunately most of the leg work falls to the consumer. It can seem unfair if an error that's not your fault is recorded, especially if you then you have to chase up the issue. But, if you notice a mistake, dispute it so it can be corrected as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, the pressure to fix credit report errors falls on the consumer, not the agency or creditor
The same applies not just to a credit card company, but if the incorrect information on your credit report is from a gas and electricity provider, mobile phone network, bank or mortgage lender and more. But in each case the process should be the same.
If your dispute goes unresolved after the investigation, then you're allowed to write a 200-word statement explaining your side of the story, which will then be saved alongside the disputed information.
This will not improve your credit score, but it will allow future creditors to consider this statement before judging your application.
It's possible to pay credit file correction companies to do this on your behalf, but it could cost you well over £200 a year.
It's not considered the fault of the credit reference agency for recording an error in your financial history, but doubts remain over the credit scoring industry's willingness to get every single consumer's information absolutely correct.
Not all credit reference agencies have the same information about you. For example one credit reference agency may include an error on your report that could affect your overall credit score, but the others may not.
They're most likely to have an error because a credit provider didn't give them that information, or there was an administrative mistake in recording your financial history.
Some argue that it should be the role of the credit reference agency to chase up banks and other credit providers for correct information, rather than consumers having to file a complaint and get errors fixed.
Unfortunately, this is unlikely to change so it is vital that consumers check
The Home Office recommends that you check your credit report regularly to spot any unfamiliar accounts or inexplicable debts immediately. You will be
This doesn't just apply to bank or credit card statements, even an old catalogue showing your name, address and account number could be enough to help a thief steal your identity.
Look through your bank and credit card statements thoroughly for any suspicious transactions and report them at once.
If important documents like your passport or driving licence are lost or stolen, report it to the relevant organisation as soon as possible.
Phishing emails, phone calls and messages claiming to be from your bank or other financial services provider ask you for personal details like account numbers, PINs or password. No credible organisation would ask for this information so you shouldn't ever answer.
You might use some personal information as part of a personal password or log-in security question (mother’s maiden name, pet or children’s names or dates of birth etc) so this could leave you vulnerable to identity fraud.
Thieves could use your previous address details to get credit, and run up debts in your name. Being registered to vote elsewhere would prevent this.
It's best to do this for at least a year if you move house so that your post can't get into the wrong hands. Moving house is a big cause of ID theft.
Do not tell your PIN or passwords to anyone, no matter how much you trust them. And don't write them down anywhere either.
If you don't receive important documents in the post when you were expecting them you should act straight away (particularly watch this in flats where you share a letterbox). Contact the sender and tell them that you haven't received your documents.
Whether you're looking for a credit card, loan, or a mobile phone deal, your credit score is important - find out how to improve your credit rating.Learn more