Protect your good name: Why you should check your credit report regularly
Jessica Meyer was excited about buying her first home with her mother. She’d saved a good deposit and was ready to sign the contract.
Until the bank contacted her to say they had checked her credit status with a credit reporting company and she was deemed a risk.
Jessica couldn’t believe it. The teacher did not have a credit card, owned her own car outright and had no debt to her name.
When she contacted the credit reporting company, she discovered they had mixed her up with another Jessica Meyer, who was born on the same day but had a different middle name. And, in fact, had now married and had a different surname.
“I was paying the price for the poor financial decisions of someone else and no one seemed to care,” she says.
It took Jessica three months to unravel the mix-up and she had to involve the Ombudsman to get the credit company to fix it.
Worse still, she lost the contract to the house. But the damage was far from over.
Two years later, with even more savings under her belt, Jessica was ready to try stepping into the property market once more.
Imagine her horror when she decided to check her credit rating. And the other Jessica’s credit details came up — again! This time the bad rating was with all three major credit reporting companies.
“I could see all her details, her driver’s licence, her addresses all mixed up with mine,” Jessica says. “I was worried that she could see mine, too.”
Same name, different credit report
When she contacted the credit companies, they assured her that was not the case and providers were clicking or putting in the wrong person. They did promise to fix the issue. But every time Jessica checked, her details were still connected to her namesake with the bad debt history.
“Every time I would open a return email from one of the credit companies thinking it would be fixed, it was not,” Jessica says.
“It would still have her details or purchases and loans from a completely different state.”
Every time Jessica would sit down to dispute each transaction with all three companies was taking its toll.
“It was impacting my life and I felt helpless. Surely I’m not alone in this situation?”
Far from it. In fact, when a desperate Jessica finally took her case to A Current Affair, they enlisted the help of Jo Ucukalo, from Handle My Complaint.
“As soon as the story aired, I was contacted by other consumers who’ve experienced similar heartache with credit reports. So much so that we are currently offering a free webinar,” Jo says.
“During the two-hour webinar, we’ll help every participant take action to get their credit report corrected.”
Free credit reporting webinar
Jo will assist you to submit a complaint with companies where there are credit reporting errors. These complaints will start the clock on the companies to have the errors corrected. If a credit reporting agency is claiming it’s not them, but the companies supplying the incorrect information, this will be discovered very quickly. Once we have one or two examples of mistakes being made, the credit agencies will promptly correct the mistakes in their system.
“The webinar will be really hands-on,” Jo says. “At the end, everyone will feel very satisfied that their situation will be looked into properly.
“It can be really scary for people when they don’t know what’s going on and where to turn to for help. With our session, it’s just a case of turning up and getting help. You can ask any questions and you can remain anonymous, too.”
So should you be worried about your credit report?
The information on your credit file is only as good as the company managing it. Jess’s story is of particular concern as her report was mixed up with another Jess not once, but twice. And in each instance, it has taken an extraordinary amount of time and energy for the errors to be corrected.
Jess has spent years getting her credit report fixed to allow her to get a home loan. Homes are now much more expensive than when she originally first applied for a loan. How much extra is she paying for a home now than four years ago?
This situation understandably caused a lot of anxiety and distress. On top of the financial hit that Jess has taken for not being able to get into the property market earlier.
What should you do if you find yourself in a similar position?
- Get a copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus
- Contact each company with the incorrect information on your credit history and ask them to explain
- Once you have a few providers confirming there are errors in your credit report, contact the credit agencies and give them a 30-day timeframe to fix the errors you have identified
- Once the errors have been fixed, continue to check your credit report regularly for the next two years
Five things everyone should do for their credit rating:
- Pay your bills on time, without fail, especially those more than $150
- For any bill you aren’t going to pay, because you’re disputing the charge, get a payment suspension in writing
- Check your credit report every three months - you can do this for free
- Don’t allow others to use your name for credit applications without you being capable of making the payments if they default
- Steer clear of credit repair agencies - don’t go anywhere near them - under any circumstances
With Handle My Complaint’s assistance, Jessica was finally able to get her life — and credit rating — back to where it should be.
She has now applied for a home loan with the Commonwealth Bank and we’re wishing her every bit of good fortune with the move.
If you have experienced similar misfortune with credit agencies, please get in touch. Are you wondering how credit reporting works or do you have an error on your credit history you want fixed? If so, register for our free webinar, to be held on 25 November from 5-7 pm AEDT, by emailing us at [email protected].