Q & A: Getting Hold of Your Credit File
A credit file is a record of your financial history. It enables potential lenders to assess your credit risk.
What Information Does it Contain?Information includes material from the electoral roll, such as evidence of your address.Lenders are reassured if you are on the electoral roll, so if you are not already, then it is worth signing up. Other data includes details of bankruptcy and certificates of discharge, county court judgements, lenders information and records of previous searches by other lenders as well as details of previous names, and linked addresses.
Who Might Look at it?Any company entering into a financial agreement with you may decide to investigate your credit background before allowing you credit. This is to protect them against the possibility of you failing to keep to the agreement. Sometimes they will use their own in-house system of credit scoring but often they will decide to access your credit file. This provides them with the information they need to assess the risk of entering into an agreement with you.
So, for example, this may include organisations such as banks and building societies as well as shops and other commercial organisations. If you apply for a mortgage, a loan or a credit card then you can expect that your credit file will be consulted.
Can I Be Blacklisted?Credit files do not carry recommendations for lenders. They simply contain key financial information as compiled by credit reference agencies. It is then up to the lender to decide.
Who Holds Credit Files?Credit reference agencies hold credit files and there are three main credit reference agencies within the UK. Callcredit, Experian and Equifax all compile personal credit files and maintain the records in their databases. Between them they hold data on most UK adults. These are the organisations which companies approach when they are seeking to validate your financial background.
How Can I Go About Getting a Copy?Under the Data Protection Act anyone is entitled to view their personal credit file. Often people decide to do so after having been refused credit by a company. If this happens to you it is definitely worth checking your file to get a clearer understanding for the reason for the refusal. However you may also wish to see your file to be aware of what financial records appear there.
To get a copy of your file simply contact one of the credit reference agencies for a copy. You will need to pay a nominal fee and provide them with a few key facts about yourself such as name, date of birth and current and recent addresses. You should receive your file quickly as agencies are required to respond to you within 7 days. Occasionally, to prevent fraud, a company will require further proof of identity such as a copy of a utility bill before it can provide your file.