Online Report Service Offers UK Consumers
Credit reference agency Callcredit has launched an online credit report service, myCallcredit, which allows consumers to see their credit commitments at a glance via the internet.
The service will help consumers to protect themselves from the rapidly growing problem of identity fraud as well as helping them to manage their finances more effectively. It gives them access to the same information lenders use to assess their creditworthiness.
Consumers can log on to HYPERLINK www.mycallcredit.com and check the state of their finances on a one-off basis for just £7.50.
As an introductory offer, they can have 12 months unlimited access to their online credit file for £22.49 - less than £2.00 per month - or £29.99 including an alert service, where they receive an email or SMS text alert whenever a significant change takes place on their credit file.
From March 1 prices will increase to £29.99 and £39.99 respectively.
Callcredit's Alison Nicholson said:
"By allowing consumers to keep a more careful eye on their credit dealings, myCallcredit is significantly reducing the dangers associated with identity fraud.
"The alert service means that people will be able to spot potential fraud very quickly, for example if a new account is opened in their name or if their address is changed.
"Otherwise, at the very best it could be several weeks before people find out, when a statement lands on their doorstep. The worst case scenario is that the identity thief manages to set up a new address in your name, which means you might not find out for months."
Identity theft is an escalating problem in the UK. According to CIFAS, the UK's fraud prevention service, the number of cases has risen from 20,000 in 1999 to 120,000 in 2004 and the upward trend shows no sign of abating.
IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYBODY
John Goodfellow, was taken aback when his cash card was refused at an ATM.
Not only is John a canny Scotsman, who keeps his personal finances in good order, he is also chief executive of Skipton Building Society, one of the country's largest building societies and the parent company of Callcredit.
On contacting his bank John was told they had sent out a new card and hence after three weeks had voided his old card. Assuming the new card had been lost in the post the bank cancelled it and promised delivery of a replacement within seven working days.
"A couple of weeks later there was no sign of the card so I called the bank again and discovered the address on my bank account had been mysteriously changed to an address in London!" he said. "Two cards and a statement had been sent there. I had been the victim of identity fraud.
"Of course the next thing that happened was calls telling me my credit card account was in arrears. The address had been changed on that account too.
"Even though the bank was very helpful it took a long time sorting out the problem and making sure my accounts with other lenders hadn't been interfered with as well.
"For it to happen to me is very embarrassing," he said, "but it is a salutary lesson to everyone to keep a close eye on their credit files. MyCallcredit would have saved me a lot of angst, time and worry. I would have seen the change of address appear on my file and the e-alert service would have flagged it up for me with an email or a text message to my mobile.
"The more we learn to monitor our credit finances carefully the less likely fraudsters will be to attempt this type of scam."
PROTECT YOUR IDENTITY
In order to make it more difficult for the thieves Ms Nicholson says people must do more to protect their identities. "We must all be very careful about the way we dispose of and disclose personal financial information. Bin-raiding, for example is a growing problem so people should never throw away items such as statements or credit card receipts without ripping them up or shredding them first. And be extra vigilant if you are asked for personal information from someone over the phone or by email purporting to be from your bank or some similar organisation.
"If you do become the victim of identity fraud, it can seriously damage your credit file and it does take a lot of time and effort to sort it out - for both the consumer and the lenders. Lenders do their best to speed up the correction process but unfortunately during that time victims will find it more difficult to obtain credit."