Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has warned Australians to check their credit reports at least once a year. With more and more transactions taking place online the opportunities for information theft increase. Checking credit reports regularly is the best way to identify and correct these errors.

“The trend towards conducting more of our transactions online using credit cards could affect people’s credit reports as much as their bank balances.

“Checking your credit report annually is just as important as checking your bank statement, which we all do regularly.”

Damina Paull, CEO of the governing industry body the Australian Retail  Credit association, agrees.

“By checking your credit report regularly you can ensure you are aware of what is on it, including any errors, and save yourself from potential headaches and disappointment down the track when you apply for a loan or credit card.”

Australians have a frightening ignorance about their own credit status. For many years it was thought credit reports were compiled on individuals without their having access to the information. Changing this attitude has been (and continues to be) difficult.

Even when people go to lenders seeking credit they do so without knowing their own credit status. Rectifying this, and going into a lender armed with information about your credit ranking, gives the borrower much more leverage in negotiating the deal.

Often, it is only when people are seeking credit that they finally learn of any mistakes or frauds on their credit reports.

Everyone is urged to go to CreditSmart.org.au and request a copy of their credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies. The website has been developed from Australian Consumer Retail Association (ARCA).

All Australians have the right to an annual free copy of their credit report from each of the agencies. If a consumer is refused a credit application they are then entitled to another credit report at no cost.

Australians are allowed (and encouraged) to challenge and correct any error on the reports they receive. These challenges must be investigated free of charge.

Customers also have the right to appeal to a dispute resolution services, like an ombudsman, should their challenges not be solved satisfactorily.

Where a customer suspects identity theft they have the right to place a ban on their credit file – to protect it from further misuse.

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