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My Credit Reference Record Should be....Mine?

One of the items in my spam folder tonight is an email from Experian offering me a free trial for access to 'Credit Expert', so that I can view my credit reference.  Obviously, the intention is for me to have the free trial and then pay for this subsequently (they want my card details when applying for the trial).  This reminded me that my credit record currently isn't actually mine, which I think is wrong.  I believe that my credit record should be mine and therefore I should get access to it for free.

Not only that, I also believe that, if we adopted that position, and added to it an obligation on the part of CRAs to contact the subject (us) separately when they get a request for a reference, of any kind, then we could actually cut down significantly on identity fraud.  Currently, they have no such obligation, and rely on the subject's signature on an application form submitted by a financial institution as permission to release the information - even though they don't have any means of checking whether the request has actually been sanctioned by the right person (since they don't hold a copy of our signatures).

Of course, this would add to application processing costs, and possibly timescales, with regard to credit applications but, if that process significantly reduces credit fraud, I bet the business case would be positive in the end.  It could also significantly impact the instant credit process (except where the sanction could be achieved via e.g. mobile phone) which, in the current situation, might not actually be a bad thing.  Doing this would mean that each of us would always know when our record was being accessed by someone, and would mean that only applicaitons we separately sanctioned would be progressed.

Of course, there would have to be some form of sanction we could give for organisations that required regular access (like credit card companies who receive regular data) but that should be possible by the CRAs obtaining the equivalent to 'standing orders', for specific banks during specific times, or periods of time.

Our credit records are an important part of our identity.  They are being abused by the shadier elements of our society.  There should be laws, rules and regulations that give us more control over how they are used.

What do others think?

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Comments: (3)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 17 October, 2008, 12:52Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I had the same idea in August of 2000. This idea has been actualised into a system.

A similar system protecting individuals against Identity Theft relating to fraudulent applications for passports, drivers license, and other permits also exists.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 17 October, 2008, 14:19Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

We can notify the person that their file is being requested and empower them to allow it or deny access in seconds for less than a dollar, but then the credit reference provider couldn't help ID thieves steal money by giving merchants and others access to it and Experian couldn't charge you to see if someone had stolen it.

The Mafia could take a lesson from that.

I've been giving them a hard time about it for a while, but it looks like the US Congress is soon going to make some changes to force the credit reference agencies to allow customers to approve or deny access.

It's unethical, immoral and unconcionable as it stands, but since when has that ever stopped some finance industry types.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 17 October, 2008, 17:28Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

In addition to prolonging the 'application for credit' a system of personal management (and dare I say accountability) may make individuals more aware of their credit situations. Often ill informed individuals rush into credit arrangements without the foresight to manage their personal affairs, is that not exactly why we have a credit crunch. Bad debt?

Yet companies still make money from our simple need to establish our credit score, which is not actually a personal, universal credit score it is simply the score they have given you according to their information.