Credit: checks, history, ID theft & fraud READER OFFER

Credit Expert by Experian, a credit reference agency, enables you to check your credit file online, enabling you to correct mistakes to your credit history and combat identity theft and fraudSometimes it’s better to be a number than a freeman; there’re just too many of us about. Stephen Newtons that is. We’re all used to having to sign up for e-mail accounts as suchlike as stephen50066 or whatever and I’m pleased to have nabbed my .com before anyone else. Yet even before going .com I was coming across namesakes. At university there was another Stephen Newton somewhere in the same student village and we sometimes got each other’s mail. More seriously, when I was unemployed in the early ’90s the then DHSS sent me a whole batch of confidential stuff about another Stephen Newton who happened to be signing on at the same office, even though we had different addresses, NI numbers etc.

And now another Stephen Newton, also living in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, has been turned down for an Egg Visa Card because I’ve already got one. It turns out our credit histories had been linked and jumbled. There’s also a local Katherine Newton our dentist constantly confuses with Katharine; perhaps Stephen and Katherine are together. Fortunately, all of this is incompetence rather than identity theft or some other fraud. I’ve not been refused credit as a result, but I guess it must effect my credit score or rating somehow.

Anyway. It used to be that you had to pay to see your credit file and I’ve found that galling, as it seems like an opportunity for credit reference agencies to make money from their own incompetence. Things have changed a little as you can now get a credit report from Experian that’s free if you sign up to try their Credit Expert Monitoring Service and cancel before 30 days is up. This is what I did.

This time it wasn’t too bad. There were a quite a few small errors, but nothing damaging. Although, one of my ex-creditors had reported me as still living at an address I left eight years ago, which could be problematic if a subsequent resident got up to no good. More difficult was Katharine’s because both her first and maiden names (St. Claire-Johnson) have so many permutations. Data tends to be entered by bored people, who constantly misspell, into systems that often don’t accept names as long as hers or refuse punctuation and spaces. So the record gives the impression that I’ve lived with many women, with slightly different credit histories.

The obsessive can sign up to get e-mail or text alerts if someone looks at or changes their credit file. But even if that sounds a bit much for you, it’s well worth taking a look at your credit report.
Visitors from the USA should try CreditReporting.com.

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