Monday, 6 December 2010

What your credit listing means

Your bank manager looks at your credit report – Not at You.

This is one list you never want to be on – the Credit Blacklist. A bad credit rating can put your life on hold for many years as it makes getting credit impossible. More and more Namibians are getting caught out, sometime unfairly, and the Namibia Consumer Protection Group felt more information must be circulated to consumers about the issue.

A credit default is a black mark against your name that doesn't wash away and the three Credit Bureaus, (Transunion ITC, Compuscan and Credit Information Bureau Namibia) currently list over 50 000 Namibians that are branded as credit lepers.

I have found that mostly young Namibians are prone to having problems with credit. The advertising makes it sound so easy, “Buy Now, Pay Later”. Unfortunately, when it comes time to pay, these items are not always first on their list. This then causes problems as they start falling in arrears and eventual find themselves blacklisted.

Often, a person does not realise they have a credit black mark on their name till the next time they apply for credit.

Recently, a consumer approached the NCPG about a problem they were facing.

“I have recently had the chance to buy my Uncle’s house. The Government (where I work), has already agreed to give me a housing loan and I qualify for enough from the bank. But now the bank does not want to grant me credit for a black mark from a cash loan company. I spoke to the cash loan company and it turns out they did not cash one of my cheques for the amount owing. I spoke to my bank and explained but they do not accept the explanation.” The consumer, in tears stated, “I cannot believe it. Through no fault of my own, someone is allowed to list me as a bad person!”

There are many other horror stories out there and it would fill an entire magazine to tell them.

What is a credit report?
A credit report is a collection of information about you and how you pay your accounts. It may also include information about how much credit you have available, what your monthly debts are, and other information that can help a lender such as a bank to make a decision about whether you are a good or bad credit risk.

The report itself does not say you are a good or bad credit risk. It is only a tool to assist the lender. Unfortunately, most lenders reject you outright if you are listed at a credit bureau.

Where does all this information come from?
Credit bureaus, (or credit reporting agencies) collect this information from companies, doctors, or any person that you have done a credit business with. These businesses are providing information to the bureau in exchange for information they might require on other customers. The credit bureau sells your data for lenders to make a decision on your creditworthiness.

What is in my report?
Personal identifying information
This includes your name, address (current and previous), ID number, telephone and cellular number, your current and previous employers, and possibly also your marital status.
Credit History
This section includes information on your banking history, stores where you have credit cards, and possibly also business who have granted you credit such as doctors, dentists, and even your pharmacy. It includes information about each account you have, such as when did you open it, what type of account is, how much credit you have been given, what your your monthly payment is and how well you pay your account.
Public records
This includes judgements against you or any other court interventions. This is easily available from the courts.
This section indicates any credit business that has requested to see your information. This section is not always available to you as an individual. It should also include any companies that have bought your information for marketing purposes.

What is not on my report?
• Income
• Bank account balances
• Race (cultural group)
• Religion
• Criminal records
• Driving records (speeding fines, drinking convictions, etc.)
• Maintenance defaults (not yet)

What should you do?
Get a copy of your credit report, have a look at it and make sure you understand it so that before you apply for your credit you know where you stand