An Equifax credit report is the detail of your credit history to date whereas a score is simply a number which is derived from the information on your credit report. Your Equifax credit score is not part of your credit report and is generated at a point in time.
Comprehensive credit reporting changes the type of consumer credit information that can be collected by credit bureaus and used by credit providers when making a lending decision. The Privacy Act 1988, which is the legislation governing consumer credit reporting in Australia, was amended on 12 March 2014 to introduce comprehensive credit reporting.
Previously Australia had a negative reporting system. This meant consumer credit reports could only contain information such as credit enquiries (typically applications for credit e.g. a personal loan or credit card) and information from credit providers such as payment defaults and serious credit infringements. Under a comprehensive credit reporting system positive data is able to be included on credit reports. Most developed countries in the world operate under a comprehensive credit reporting system.
The positive data that can be included on credit reports includes account information such as the date an account was opened and closed, credit limit, type of credit account as well as 24 months repayment history. Repayment history information can only be provided by and shared with licenced credit providers - this doesn’t include telco and utility companies. This means that if you make your repayments on time each month this good credit behaviour will be recorded on your credit report.
If you pay your credit card or loan repayments more than 14 days past the due date this can be recorded on your credit report as part of your repayment history information as a late payment. Only licensed credit providers such as banks and financial institutions are able to disclose repayment history information to a credit reporting body like Equifax. Telco and utility companies are not licensed credit providers and cannot supply or receive this information.
However, a default can be recorded on your credit report by any credit provider (including telco and utility companies) if you miss a payment which is more than $150 and is more than 60 days overdue. Before listing a default the credit provider must have taken steps to collect the whole or part of the outstanding debt. This means they have sent you are written notice setting out the amount overdue and seeking payment and a separate written notice advising you that the debt may be reported to a credit reporting body. A default remains on your credit report for five years.
If you pay your credit card or loan repayments more than 14 days past the due date this can be recorded on your credit report as part of your repayment history information as a late payment. It is unlikely one late payment, depending upon how late the payment was, followed by making your repayments on time, will significantly impact your credit worthiness, however, a number of late payments could be an indication you are in financial stress and may negatively impact your credit report. This repayment history information is recorded on your credit report for a period of two years.
To try and prevent this, pay bills on time, set up direct debits to pay your minimum credit card balance and schedule loan repayments for your pay day. Talk to your credit provider straight away if you are having trouble meeting your repayments – they may have procedures in place to help borrowers experiencing financial hardship.
If you are struggling with debt ASIC MoneySmart also provides more information about managing debt.
If you are finding it difficult to get credit, think twice before paying for the services of a company that claims they can "repair" your credit report/history. Some companies claim to be able to remove negative information from your credit report and charge you to do so. This can often cost over $1,000.
If you have inaccurate information on your credit report you can lodge a correction request with the relevant credit provider or credit reporting body and they will investigate for free and correct the information if it is inaccurate.
Equifax will not remove information from credit reports unless that information is erroneous. The fact that information is inaccurate or wrong does not mean it must be deleted. If it can be corrected, it will be corrected but not deleted.
The first thing to do is to report the problem. If you believe that someone may have used your identity details to fraudulently obtain credit you should take the following steps and act immediately:
- Request a copy of your credit report to check that the information relates to applications for credit that you have in fact made.
- Contact any credit providers listed on your credit file to whom you have not applied for credit so that they can investigate and take appropriate and prompt action
- Contact Equifax (and other credit reporting bodies) to put a ban on your consumer credit information. The initial ban period is for 21 days and can be extended. This can help prevent fraudulent accounts being opened in your name. The ban period means that if a credit provider requests your credit report as part of an assessment of a credit application Equifax cannot share it unless you have provided written consent or if it is required by law. You can find out how to put a ban on your credit report here.
- Contact the police and report the crime
When dealing with a possible identity theft it is important to keep records of the conversations you have and keep notes, including:
- name/s of the individual
- contact number
- the date you spoke to an organisation
- details of the conversation.
You should also ask questions to the people you speak to so you can understand the process. Each credit provider may have their own processes for handling fraud. Note these requirements so you can comply.
Your records are investigated. The credit provider(s) will then conduct their own investigations and notify us of the outcome. We can then remove any fraudulent information from your credit record.
You can also put a ban on your Equifax consumer credit report. The initial ban period is for 21 days and can be extended. This can help prevent fraudulent accounts being opened in your name. The ban period means that if a credit provider requests your credit report as part of an assessment of a credit application Equifax cannot share it unless you have provided written consent or if it is required by law.