We have tried to ensure that the information contained in this guide is correct at the time of publication. It is possible that some of it may become inaccurate over time. Please visit our website at www.whichcreditreport.co.uk regularly to make sure that you have the most up-to-date edition.You may give this book free of charge to your friends, family, colleagues, customers or anyone else you feel may benefit from it.
Welcome to Which Credit Report’s 2011 Free Credit Report Guide. Which Credit Report is the only online credit report comparison website that compares credit reports from all three UK credit reference agencies.
This free guide will tell you everything you need to know about your credit report, including what information you'll find on it and how long the entries last. You'll also find out what your credit score is, how to improve your credit score, what identity fraud is, and how to protect yourself from identity theft.
With credit lenders becoming more and more cautious about whom they lend to and the terms they offer, and with personal identity theft and financial fraud on the increase, it's never been more important to check your credit report on a regular basis.
The three UK credit reference agencies, Experian, Equifax and CallCredit, all offer £2 statutory credit reports, as well as credit monitoring and credit scoring services. But why pay for your credit report and wait for it to arrive in the post when it’s possible to get it for free instantly online? Keep reading and we’ll reveal all!Credit Reports Explained
What Is A Credit Report ?
A consumer credit report is a personal snapshot of your credit accounts, including your overdrafts, credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and mobile phone contracts. Your credit report records information
about your outstanding balances and payment history, and if you've failed to keep up with repayments it will also list any defaults, court judgments or bankruptcies registered against you.
What Is My Credit Report Used For ?
Every time you apply for credit, lenders check your credit report. This is known as a credit search or a credit check. The information included in your credit report is used by lenders alongside the information you provide on their application forms to create a credit score (sometimes referred to as a credit rating). Lenders use your credit score to decide whether or not to lend to you. In some cases it also affects the terms of your credit agreement and the rate of interest charged. Each lender has their own methodology for calculating your credit score and they update them regularly to reflect their lending policy.
What Inform ation Is Included In My Credit Report And How Is It Collected?
To compile your credit report credit reference agencies use two main sources, public records and information provided by lenders and financial institutions. Public records include electoral roll information from local authorities, court judgments, individual voluntary arrangements and bankruptcies. Lenders and other financial institutions provide details of credit searches, credit applications and credit agreements. Financial associations with other people are also shared, for example where you have a joint bank account or mortgage.
All this information is collected by credit reference agencies that compile it and make it available for lenders to search (with your permission, normally granted when you apply for credit). The three UK credit reference agencies are Experian, Equifax and CallCredit. To find out more about what information each credit reference agency includes in their credit report, check out our Credit Report Comparison.
Details of your ethnic origin, religion, sexual preferences, medical history, political beliefs, criminal record, residential status, council tax payments, employment records, salary, pension, insurance policies, savings accounts, investments, and Child Support Agency (CSA) information are not included in your credit report.
What Are My Rights ?
You have the right to view the information contained in your credit report to make sure it's accurate. If inaccurate information is found, you're entitled to apply to have it corrected within 28 days. You can write to any of the credit reference agencies and ask for a posted copy of your statutory credit report within 7 days of receipt of your letter. There is normally a charge of £2 for this. You can also order your free credit report online from Experian, Equifax or Call Credit. To find out which one is best check out our Credit Report Comparison on the next page, or click on the relevant buttons below.
Before you order your free credit report, we'd recommend using our comparison chart below to make sure you're ordering the right one for your needs. Which Credit Report is the only website to compare and rate credit reports from all three of the UK's credit reference agencies, Experian, Equifax and CallCredit. And the winner of the Best Credit Report 2011 is...Winner
Which Credit Report? Best Consumer Credit Report 2011Experian Equifax CallCredit
So what factors did we take into account when deciding on the best credit report? Well we've compared Experian, Equifax and CallCredit by the services they offer, what's included in their credit reports, and the overall experience when using their websites and dealing with their customer services teams.Let’s take a closer look on the next few pages… Services Offered
Credit File Monitoring Service
To help stop Identity Fraud.
Free With Credit File MonitoringService CallCredit
Free With Credit File MonitoringService Monitoring Service Free Trial 30 Day Trial Period
Identity Fraud Legal Costs Insurance
Included free with
E-Mail or Text Alerts
To advise you when
someone has done a credit search.
Online Dispute Service To help you correct any errors on your credit report.No Long Term Contract 3 Months
Offering credit and identity theft advice.
Such as your addresses and
date of birth.
Electoral Roll Information
Your registration with local
Other names you are known
People you are associated
Public Record Information
Judgments filed in your
How much you owe, your
credit limits and yo ur
Addresses and Contact
Details of Lenders and Other
To help you contact
organisations to ask them
about information on your
report or correct any
Details of any properties that
have been repossessed.Continued on next page… … continued from previous page.
that have viewed your
Notices of Correction
Information you've added to
The Land Registry provides
historic house purchase
prices from April 2000.
CIFAS - The UK's Fraud
Alerts registered at your
GAIN - Gone Away
Companies recording that
they are unable to find you.Sign Up For Your Free Trial Our Rating Experian Equifax CallCredit
Sign Up Process
How simple is it to register and access members area?
Accessibility of Website How easy is it to find what you're looking for and navigate around the site?
Credit Report Layout
How well is the credit report presented?
Credit Report Content How comprehensive is it in terms of what's included?
Credit Report Accuracy How many of your credit agreements / accounts are included and is it up-todate?
Flexibility of Packages
Are flexible packages
offered so you can tailor the service to your needs?
Information & Advice How concise / useful is the site information & advice?
Ease to Cancel During Free Trial Period
Is it easy for you to cancel your free trial?
Ordering your free credit report couldn't be easier. The three UK credit reference agencies, Experian, Equifax and Call Credit, all offer 30 day free trials for their consumer credit monitoring services. All you have to do is sign-up for the freetrial, and you'll automatically receive your credit report free too.
If you don't want to pay the monthly subscription for the credit monitoring service, just remember to cancel your free trial before the 30 days are up.
You can order your free credit reports using the buttons below. If you're not sure which one to go for and haven’t read our Credit Report Comparison yet, please go to page 4. Otherwise, why not order all three?Remember, checking your own credit report doesn't affect your credit score! How Long Do Entries Stay On Your Credit Report?
For your reference, here is a list of how long entries remain on your credit report before being removed from your credit history by the relevant credit reference agency. Remember, if there's anything on your credit file that's incorrect or that you don't agree with, contact the lender and ask them to amend or remove it. Incorrect information can affect your credit score.To find out what lenders are looking at, order a free copy of your credit report.Credit Report Entry Removed
When a CIFAS Member identifies a fraud, a warning with the details of the individual linked to the application or facility is placed on the CIFAS database. The warning shows the name used but this does not necessarily mean the person named is involved in the fraud, as fraudsters tend to use a variety of names, some false and some genuine. The warning does not mean the individual has been blacklisted. Any CIFAS Member subsequently receiving that warning will see the phrase ‘CIFAS – Do Not Reject – Validation Required’. It reminds the Member that extra precautions should be taken to ensure that the application or facility that has prompted the check of the database is genuine and this protects the individual from further fraud. The CIFAS entry will stay for as long as there is evidence of fraud.
Protective Registration is a service offered by CIFAS that helps to protect those whose identity is at risk due to crime or loss of data. As a result of the entry, CIFAS Members will undertake additional verification checks to ascertain that the applicant is genuine and not a
fraudster trying to commit identity theft. This may mean you personally experience delays while your application is verified, but offers reassurance that your identity is protected against fraudulent applications in your name. The Protective Registration will stay on your credit report for as long as you subscribe to it.Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML)
After one year for a credit application search (also referred to as a credit check) and two years for a debt collection search.Experian Sponsored Article
There is a variety of information held on your credit report from a variety of sources. If any of it is wrong, it could affect your ability to get credit.Here's how to correct the information held on your report.
The Electoral Roll
If you have registered to vote and your credit file does not show this, please contact the credit reference agencies listed at the bottom of this article and they will investigate the matter. If you have not registered to vote, you may want to contact your local authority about filling in an electoral registration form.
If you move home you can tell your local authority who will tell credit reference agencies about your change of registration in the course of the year.
If you believe a county court judgment has been recorded incorrectly, you should contact the county court, quoting the case number included on your file. If the judgment was recorded incorrectly the county court will alter their records. Credit reference agencies are told about any such changes within four weeks, but if you give them original court documents, in the form of a Certificate of Satisfaction or Cancellation, they may be able to change their records sooner if necessary.
If you have paid a Scottish Decree, you should send Registry Trust (address below) a receipt or a letter from your creditor (known as the pursuer) to confirm your payment.
If you write to Registry Trust Ltd questioning the accuracy of a judgment recorded on your file, asking for an entry to be changed, you should send a cheque for £4.50 to cover their search fee. They will then tell the credit reference agencies about any change to your file.
For judgments made in Northern Ireland, if you provide documents from a plaintiff to confirm a payment, the agencies will change their records. If you have any questions about the accuracy of a judgment recorded on your file, contact the court concerned.
R egistry Trust Ltd.
173-175 Cleveland Street London W1P 5PE
If a bankruptcy order against you is annulled (cancelled) or discharged (that is, you have met all terms), you should send a copy of the Annulment Certificate or Order of Discharge to the credit reference agencies. They will then update their records. If your bankruptcy has been annulled they should completely remove any record of it from your file. If your bankruptcy has been discharged a record of it will be kept on your file but it will show that it has been discharged.
If you have any questions about a record of a voluntary arrangement you should contact the supervisor who dealt with your case. If you send documents from the supervisor to confirm that the information on your file needs to be changed, the agencies will change their records.
After carefully studying the credit account details (credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc.) on your file, if you believe any information needs to be changed you should write to the lender concerned and ask them to give the correct information to the credit reference agencies.
Credit reference agencies will delete searches only when they are instructed to do so by the company who searched your file. If you are concerned about the accuracy of a record of a search, you should contact the company which carried out that search.
Links between your previous addresses, or any addresses you may use for correspondence, may be listed on your credit file. The link will only be broken when the reference agencies are asked to do so by the organisation that created the link.
If you have any questions about a CIFAS record, write to the organisation concerned. If you disagree with that organisation over the information on your file, ask the organisation for details of the scheme for settling disputes.
Financial Associations (Shared Financial Responsibility) If a financial association is shown, and you do not share a financial responsibility with the other person, or if that financial association no longer exists, you should write to the credit reference agencies. They will investigate the matter and make any necessary change to your file.
If any names are shown on your credit report that you have never used, you should contact the company listed as providing the other name, or write to the credit reference agency and they will investigate the matter and make any necessary changes to your file.
Information About Other People
If you share no financial responsibility with any other person mentioned on your file you can ask the agencies to ‘create a disassociation’. This breaks any connection between your information and theirs and so makes sure their information is removed from your file, and that your information is removed from theirs. To do this you must give the agencies your, and the other person’s, full name and date of birth, details of your relationship and any shared addresses.
To view your personal credit information that lenders are currently basing their credit decisions on, apply online for a credit report from Experian, the UK’s largest credit reference agency, now.You will also receive a 30-day free trial to the CreditExpert Monitoring Service from Experian. Click here for your free Experian credit report and a free 30-day trial of the CreditExpert Monitoring Service. What Is A Credit Score?
Before you ask... no, a credit score is nothing to do with football! But if you have any suggestions for an interesting image that would help to illustrate what a credit score is, please let us know. Likewise, if you can fill us in on how the offside rule works it would also be much appreciated!
Anyway, back to business. What is a credit score ? Well, most lenders that you apply to for credit use credit scores to predict how risky it is to lend to you. Your credit score (also known as credit rating) is calculated using a formula that takes into account credit information supplied on your credit report by credit reference agencies such as Experian, Equifax and Call Credit, and information you provide on the lender's application form when you apply.
Your credit rating not only determines whether you are a suitable risk to lend to, but can also determine what interest rate you're offered and how much a lender will lend you. You'll often hear people say things such as "I got the best rate because I have a good credit score" or "I couldn't borrow enough because I have a bad credit rating". Some lenders also use credit ratings to identify which customers are likely to generate the most revenue for them.
Although it is a common belief that there is a generic credit scoring system (credit rating system) used by all lenders, this is just a myth. Every lender has its own formula for calculating your credit score, and they update them regularly depending on their criteria and lending policy at the time. It is for this reason that whilst one lender may decline your application for credit, another may happily accept it.
The good news is that there are common things that you can do to improve your credit score with all lenders. Experian, Equifax and CallCredit all offer their own credit scoring services which will give you a good idea of how a lender will rate you, and on the next page we’ll describe the Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score. Please click on one of the links below to order your online credit score:
Getting declined for credit cards ? Being offered rates much higher than the "typical" ones advertised by loan companies? Struggling to secure a mortgage? If so, you could have a problem with your ccredit score (also referred to as your credit rating).
The go od news is, there's no problem that can't be solved by following our simple 10 Step Plan to Improve Your Credit Score.
Step 1 - Find Out What the Problem Is
Order your free credit report and credit score to find the root cause. You can use our Credit Report Comparison to see which credit reference agency offers the best credit report for your needs. Or if you already know which one to go for, use the relevant button below to order your free credit report now:
Step 2 - Correct Any Inaccuracies
Let's face it, lenders do make mistakes. If there's anything on your credit report that's incorrect or that you don't agree with, contact the relevant lender and ask them to amend or remove it. Incorrect information can give you a bad credit rating and affect your credit history.
Also, if you see an application that you didn't make, notify the lender immediately as you could be a victim of identity theft. Remember to check your credit report regularly to make sure it's always up-to-date and correct and to make sure fraudsters aren't trying to take out credit in your name.
Step 3 - Make Sure Any Financial Associations Are Correct If you have a joint bank account, mortgage or credit card with someone else, for example your spouse, you have a "financial association" which will be recorded on your credit report. When you apply for credit, a creditor may also search your associate's credit file to find out whether it's likely their financial situation could have an affect on your ability to keep up with payments. If one of your associates has a low credit score or a poor credit history, it could affect your ability to obtain credit.
If you are separated or divorced, you should also separate your finances. To do this, contact your creditors to update them, and also write to the three UK credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and Call Credit and ask for a notice of disassociation.
Step 4 - Register On The Electoral Roll
If you're eligible to vote, make sure you're registered on the electoral roll at your current address. Lenders use the electoral roll to verify who you are and where you live. You can lose valuable points if you're not registered at your home address. Remember to register as soon as possible after you've moved to a new address.
Step 5 - Don't Have Too Many Credit Searches Done
Every time you apply to a lender for credit, you're giving them permission to search your credit file, also known as a credit search. Each credit search is recorded on your credit report for subsequent lenders to see. Too many credit searches can be seen as a sign that you are desperate for credit, that you're attempting fraud, or that you're a prime candidate for overborrowing and getting into debt. This could lead to your application being declined.
Try to keep your credit searches to a minimum. If you're getting a quotation and not actually applying for credit, it's now possible for many lenders to do a quotation search which won't show up to other lenders.
If you have credit searches on your report that shouldn’t be there, contact the lender who made the search, and explain that you were just seeking information and not submitting a full application. If they've searched your file without your permission they should amend your credit file.
Step 6 - Keep the Number Of Credit Accounts You Have To A Minimum
Having too many credit cards or loans, even if you're paying them off on time, can be a problem for some lenders. They may worry that you're getting in over your head. If you have credit cards with no balance, you should cancel as many as possible. Although it may be nice to keep them there for a rainy day, a lender will see a large amount of unused credit which could be utilised at any time in addition to what you're applying to them for.
Step 7 - Make Your Payments On Time
Missed or late payments are frowned upon by lenders. A common mistake that many people make is not having direct debits setup for their credit agreements. This puts the emphasis on you to remember to make the payments on the correct dates and causes you extra work. If for any reason you're unable to make the payment, for example if you're away on holiday, you could be causing yourself an unnecessary problem.
Step 8 - Talk to Your Creditors
People fall behind with their payments for many reasons, including redundancy, sickness or family issues. If you're unable to keep up with your payments, discuss the problem with your creditor and if necessary, work out a payment schedule you can meet. Creditors would rather get their money back over a longer period of time than write it off altogether. This could prevent an agreement ending up as a default or County Court Judgment (CCJ).
For advice on managing your credit, contact a reliable not-forprofit agency such as Citizens Advice Bureau or National Debtline.
Step 9 - Always Tell the Truth
If a lender finds out that you've lied on an application, or even bent the truth slightly, they are within their rights to record this on your credit report. After all, this is fraud.
Step 10 - Never Give Up
Remember that, when it comes to your credit score, time is a healer. Even though your credit history may have been poor in the past, many entries disappear from your credit report after 6 years. By opening new accounts and managing them responsibly, many lenders will see that you could be a good customer. This can also help if you have a very short or even no credit history.
Experian, Equifax and CallCredit all offer their own credit scoring services which will give you a good idea of how a lender will rate you. Please click on one of the links below to order your online credit score:Credit Myths
Nowadays it's common knowledge that cats have nine lives. And we all know that blondes have more fun, size doesn't matter, and money can't buy you happiness! However, there still seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding credit. Below we listed the 9 most common credit myths and, after rubbing his magic lamp three times, our Genie appeared in a puff of smoke andclarified these misconceptions for us once and for all.
C redit Myth 1 - Credit bureaus such as Experian, Equifax and CallCredit decide whether or not I qualify for a lender's products.
Credit reference agencies just collate credit information provided by credit lenders and other financial institutions, as well as information from local authorities and the electoral roll. This information is held on your credit file for lenders to search. Each lender then applies their own credit scoring model to decide whether or not you are a suitable customer.
C redit Myth 2 - All lenders use the same credit scoring system. Although it's a common belief that there's a generic credit scoring system (also known as credit rating system) used by all lenders, this is simply not true. Every lender has its own formula for calculating your credit score, and they update them regularly depending on their criteria and lending policy at the time. It's for this reason that whilst one lender may decline your application for credit, another may happily accept it. So don't give up at the first obstacle.
T he good news is that there are common things you can do to improve your credit score with all lenders. Experian, Equifax and CallCredit all offer their own credit scoring services that give you a good idea of how a lender will rate you. Please click on one of the buttons below to order your online credit score:
Credit Myth 3 - I don't get paid enough to apply for credit. When it comes to income, it's not necessarily how much you earn that counts, but rather your ability to repay. Lenders will very rarely decline your credit application solely on how much you earn. However, they will take into account what your other expenses and credit commitments are, and whether you have managed credit well in the past. For example, a person who earns £50,000 a year, has a car on finance, a mortgage for £200,000, and has recently missed a credit card payment, may find it harder to obtain credit than someone who earns £10,000 a year, has no outstanding debts, a good history of paying back credit on time, and wants a small loan to buy a used car.
Credit Myth 4 - I have a high credit score because I've never had any credit.
This may seem strange, but to never have had any credit can actually give you a low credit score. The reason for this is that you have no credit history. It is impossible for a lender to build up a profile of you to determine whether or not you will be a good customer. One way of solving this is to apply for a credit card with a low credit limit from your bank. Use it on a monthly basis to buy something small and then pay it off in full every month. By doing this you'll be able to show that you're a responsible borrower and it won't cost you anything in terms of interest.
Credit M yth 5 - I've been blacklisted.
There's no such thing as a blacklist. Creditors make a decision at the time of your application based on your credit score and the information you provide on their application form. Obviously, if there is something on your credit report that the lenders don't like, this will affect your ability to obtain credit. But for the same reason mentioned above, just because one lender says no, that doesn't mean all lenders will. The first step is to find out what they're looking at:
Credit Myth 6 - My property is blacklisted.
As in the previous myth, there is no su h thing as a blacklist. A lender wouldn't refuse to lend to you just because someone living at your property or someone who used to live at your property had financial problems. Imagine how difficult it would be for anyone buying a repossessed property. Do consider your options carefully before opening a joint bank account, credit card or loan with anyone who has credit problems however. This will create a financial association that could affect your ability to get credit.
Credit Myth 7 - Now I have received my bankruptcy discharge / my IVA has finished, I should be able to obtain credit easily. Unfortunately, bankruptcies and Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVA) stay on your credit report for 6 years from the original date of registration. When you apply for credit a lender could see these and deem that you are a high risk to lend to. This could result in your application being declined or being offered a higher rate than that advertised. To find out how long other entries stay on your credit file, please click here.
Credit Myth 8 - The number of credit searches I've had doesn't affect my credit score.
Each time you apply to a lender for credit, you're giving them permission to search your credit file. Each credit search (also known as a credit check) is recorded on your credit report for one year (two years for debt collection searches) and can be seen by subsequent lenders. Too many credit searches can be seen as a sign that you're desperate for credit, that you're attempting fraud, or that you're a prime candidate for overborrowing and getting into debt. This could lead to your application being declined.
Try to keep your credit checks to a minimum. If you're getting a quotation and not actually applying for credit, it's now possible for many lenders to do a quotation search that won't show up to other lenders.
Credit Myth 9 - Checking my own credit report will affect my credit score.
When you check your own credit report it is only recorded as a search on your copy. No other organisations will be able to see this entry, therefore you can check your own credit file as often as you like without affecting your credit score.
Identity theft (ID theft) and identity fraud (ID fraud) could happen to anyone. Chances are, if you haven't already been a victim someone close to you probably has.
What Is the Difference Between Identity Theft and Identity Fraud? Identity theft occurs when an
identity thief steals your p ersonal information with the purpose of committing identity fraud. The thief commits identity fraud by using your personal details to acquire documents in your name, such as passports and driving licenses, or by applying for financial products such as loans, credit cards, mortgages or even state benefits. The personal information they collect and the documents they acquire can also be used to target your existing accounts.
According to the latest figures from the Identity Fraud Steering Committee (IFSC), which was set up by the Home Office in 2003 to help prevent identity theft and fraud, the annual cost of identity theft crime to the UK economy is £1.2 billion. This fact alone has brought identity theft prevention into the spotlight, and made identity protection an important issue for consumers, businesses and the government alike.
The common conception of identity thieves is that they wait until you leave the house, and then start going through your rubbish bins looking for discarded bank statements or utility bills. The reality however, is that identity theft scams are much more sophisticated than that. Not only do they infiltrate the very organisations that use your personal information on a daily basis, but they also setup bogus companies to collect it over the phone or the internet.
Although most lenders will repay any money taken as a result of identity fraud, the time taken, and the inconvenience and stress caused can be immense. The sooner you find out that you've been a victim, the less damage will be done and the quicker it will be to sort out.
How Do You Know When You've Become An Identity Theft Victim?
The first time most people realise they've become a victim of idenity theft identity fraud is when they find themselves being chased for credit they've never received, or being declined for credit when they've previously had a good credit history. However, there are tell-tale signs that can be spotted earlier if you know where to look. The easiest way to spot identity fraud early is by checking your credit report on a regular basis. The things to look out for include:
· Credit searches made by companies that you haven't given permission.
· Credit applications that you haven't made.
· Linked addresses that you don't recognise.
You can order a free credit report online instantly from Experian, Equifax or CallCredit. Use our Credit Report Comparison to find out which one is best, or click on the buttons below to order now:
If you notice any of the above on your credit file, you should report identity theft to the relevant credit reference agency immediately. Their Victims of Fraud teams should be able to help you investigate. All three credit report companies also offer credit report monitoring services to notify you of changes to your credit file.
Other signs that potential identity theft victims should look out for include:
· Bank or credit card statements showing unusual transactions.
· Letters or phone calls advising you that you've been declined for credit you've not applied for.
· Important documents such as your passport or driving license being lost or stolen.
· Applying for a state benefit only to be told you are already claiming it.
How Can You Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft or Identity Fraud?
An increasing number of people are spending a fortune each year on expensive identity theft protection policies. But with a bit of common sense, identity theft insurance shouldn't be required as protecting yourself can be quite simple to achieve. Follow our Top 10 Tips for Preventing Identity Theft to find out how:
1. Never throw away any documents containing your personal or account information. Use a shredder whenever possible.
2. Check your bank and credit card statements as soon as they arrive to make sure there are no unfamiliar transactions. Let your bank or credit card company know immediately if you notice anything strange.
3. Have your post forwarded as soon as you move to a new address and let the Post Office know immediately if you stop receiving any.
4. Register on the voters roll at your current address. To find out how to register, please click here.
5. Don't carry personal documents such as your driving license or passport around with you unless you really need to. Keep them somewhere safe and secure at home whenever possible.
7. Never share sensitive information such as PIN numbers, bank account details or passwords with anyone unless you are entirely confident you know who you are dealing with. Be especially vigilant when receiving unexpected phone calls, e-mails or market research questionnaires.8. Never give your personal or account information to websites you don't trust.
9. Protect your computer from spyware and viruses using anti-virus software designed to reduce the chances of online identity theft.
10. Check your credit report regularly, or even better, sign up for one of the Credit Report Monitoring Services provided by Experian, Equifax or Call Credit.Equifax Sponsored Article
As SOC A reports more than £80 million a year being lost through romance scams, ID fraud expert warns of risks of giving out personal information online.
London, 10th February 2011 – With figures out this week reporting that romance scams are conning thousands in the UK out of £80million a year , leading identity fraud expert, Equifax, is reminding those looking for love to be wary about what information they give out when contacting people online.
"There have been several cases reported of fraudsters obtaining bank account details through a trail of deception and hacking into social networking accounts" explained Neil Munroe, External Affairs Director, Equifax. "There are many ways that fraudsters target individuals, from forming a friendship on social networking sites such as Facebook to trying to spark a romantic relationship through dating websites. But what really concerns us is the apparent relaxed attitude many users of social networking sites have to protecting their personal information."
Equifax believes there is a worrying level of trust amongst Facebook users, with many revealing a lot more than they probably realise. Recent Equifax research has revealed the lack of privacy settings used by Facebook users – and the level of data they share amongst their 'friends'.
Analysing one Facebook user's friends , the research revealed that, of 173 friends, over three quarters provide a personal email address and 62% provide their full date of birth on their profile. Whilst they may argue that they are only making this information accessible to their 'friends', the fact is that the data could become visible to everyone they add if they do not use their privacy settings correctly. So that could include someone they have just met – or someone they have known for years.
In addition, other research  by Equifax revealed that 19% of social networking users choose not to use any privacy settings, with a further 9% not even aware of what these are! And worryingly, 47% do not regularly review their privacy settings. 17% also know their partner's passwords which, if the romance finishes, could be another area of risk.
"Our Facebook user research reveals that the data accessible to 'friends' could be used to commit identity fraud or theft," continued Neil Munroe. "Whilst I am sure that anyone would hope that the people to accept as Facebook friends wouldn't commit such a crime against them, the reality is that the average number of 'friends' for Facebook  users is 130. Can anyone really know 130 'friends' well enough to trust that they won't abuse the personal information they can see?
"Plus users are making themselves particularly vulnerable to phishing, if their email address or mobile number gets into the wrong hands.
"It is clear from our survey that there is still a level of complacency regarding data security. We therefore urge social networkers to ensure that they have tight control on who views their personal information by using the privacy settings available and limit the personal data they give out."
Equifax also recommends that consumers regularly monitor their credit report to be able to identify if any unauthorised activity occurs that might be signs of a fraudster at work.
Tackling the threat of identity theft and fraud, Equifax Identity Watch Pro gives consumers unlimited instant, easy online access to their latest credit file, with automatic alerts within 24 hours of key changes to their credit report. It costs £7.50 per month. Or for just £2.99 per month, Equifax Identity Watch Lite makes monitoring a credit report easy by automatically alerting the individual within seven days of key changes.Victims of fraud should contact Action Fraud and report it. (http://www.actionfraud.org.uk/ 0300 123 2040)
* Nearly 62% provide their full da te of birth * 78% provide a personal email address * 32.37% provide the name of their employer * Nearly 10% provide their mobile number Results from Equifax ID fraud survey June 2010 - 931 respondents:
* 19% of respondents choose not to use pri vacy settings on their social networking sites * 9% aren't aware of the privacy settings or don't know how to use them * 9% have privacy settings on some of their social networking sites but not all * 47% do not regularly review their privacy settings
* 17% know their partners passwords