Found a mistake on your credit file? Here’s what to do.
Your credit file is an important part of your financial identity. A poor credit record makes it difficult to access finance for larger purchases like a car or a home and may also mean you are only accepted by less competitive lenders that charge higher fees or interest rates.
A lot of information is recorded on your credit file including loan applications, late loan repayments, defaults and details about your identity. Sometimes, something might be listed on your credit file either by accident, by error or because someone has stolen your identity.
It’s easy to check your credit file for inaccuracies and can be done for free once a year. Doing so will help ensure you are not being denied finance due to someone else’s error or malicious intent.
Why is there a mistake on my credit file?
You may have a mistake on your credit file because the information is:
- Inaccurate. Wrong loan amounts or an incorrect name.
- Out-of-date. All listings have an expiry so check that they are still valid.
- Incomplete. Once you pay a default, the listing should change to recognise this.
- Irrelevant. Information not relating to your creditworthiness.
- Misleading. Information that doesn’t reflect your true ability to have and pay for credit.
How do I check my credit file for errors?
The first step is to request a copy of your credit file. You can get a free copy of your credit file once every 12 months or within 90 days of having a credit application rejected. There are three main credit reporting bodies, which may all hold slightly different information. You can request a report from any of the three.
Simply visit the credit reporting body’s website and follow the steps to order your credit file. It can take a week or so to be delivered, so if you need to check it in a hurry then you may need to pay to have it done faster.
Once you have your credit file it will include the following information:
- Debts or loans. Check that each debt is yours and that the amounts are correct.
- Defaults. Defaults can only be listed for debts over $150 that are overdue by 60 days. Creditors must also inform you in writing before listing a debt as a default, so check that you received notification.
- Serious credit infringements. A serious credit infringement can only be listed six months after it is listed as a default and only if the debtor is unable to contact you at your last known address. Make sure the creditor took the correct action before listing.
- Credit applications. Make sure the applications listed were made by you. If they weren’t, someone may be using your identity to apply for loans.
- Name and date of birth. Make sure both are accurate.
- Current and previous addresses. Being contactable is essential to maintaining a good credit file, so make sure your details are up to date.
What to do if there's an error on your credit file
You can report an error to any credit reporting body or creditor. Credit reporting bodies are obliged to investigate reported errors regardless of who made the listing. The responsibility is on the credit reporting bodies to prove that the listing is valid. Here are some steps to follow if you find an error:
- Check your own records. Make sure that there really is an error. Don’t just assume that direct debits were taken out of your account or that a property manager paid all your bills. Confirm it on your bank statements.
- Gather information. Depending on the type of inaccuracy or listing you may need to gather some documentary evidence to justify your claim.
- Lodge a request for correction. Report the issue to both the creditor and the credit reporting body you got your credit file from. Each credit reporting body has its only process that will need to be followed. If a credit reporting body can’t prove that the listing is correct they must change it.
- Escalate the issue. If the creditor or credit reporting body does not respond to your initial request to correct an error, you can start the external dispute resolution process for that organisation. Alternatively, you can make a complaint to the credit reporting regulator, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
What mistakes might I find on my credit file?
Here are some common mistakes you may find on your credit file:
- Incorrect address. This is a simple error that can occur if you move house frequently.
- Incorrect default. This may be listed due to a processing error on the bill collectors behalf. It can happen if you use third-party services to pay bills (eg, a property manager) or if a credit card expires.
- An expired listing. Defaults only stay on your credit file for five years, after which they expire. Make sure that any legitimate listings are not beyond their expiry date.
- Fraudulent credit applications. If your identity has been stolen it may have been used to apply for loans or services. You may find multiple applications, or even loans or unpaid services that you never applied for.
How can I keep my credit file free from errors?
The simplest way to keep your credit file error free is to check it regularly. Credit reporting bodies cannot charge you for a copy of your credit file if you have not requested one in the previous 12 months. By checking it annually, you should be able to catch most issues.
Some credit reporting bodies offer paid credit alert services as an annual subscription. These services send you an alert when your credit file changes so that you can instantly rectify mistakes.
You also need to make sure that all payments and debits actually go through, don’t just rely on someone else or automatic transfers to pay your bills. Physically check to see if the money has left your account.
Your credit file is important and it should be checked regularly for accuracy. If you find a genuine mistake it is relatively simple to have it rectified by any of the credit reporting bodies. Doing so will help ensure that you’re treated fairly by lenders.