I’ve been reading up about credit reports lately. If you’re an adult in New Zealand credit agencies are very likely to have information about you. That information may or may not be correct (mine had errors), and may be used by others to determine your access to goods or services. For example, if you want to rent a property or get a job.
In Property managers – property management, Consumer NZ says about potential tenants and credit checks:
Landlords already have free access to past Tenancy Tribunal decisions to identify potential problem tenants. They also take rent in advance and have the added security of a bond (up to 4 weeks rent) held by the Department of Building and Housing. A credit check seems an unnecessary extra step.
One of the people I follow on Twitter recently pointed out the helpful information on our New Zealand Government website. Go to the Home page and you’ll find a clearly laid out portal to detailed and helpful information on numerous topics, including credit reports (under Consumer Rights).
Track down through a couple of sub-pages and you’ll find clear, practical and useful information about credit checks and credit reports, with links to the three credit reporting companies in New Zealand.
If your record is wrong, you might not be able to get credit.
If you discover credit accounts that you never applied for, payment defaults you didn’t know about or credit enquiries you never authorised, then you might have been the victim of identity fraud.
You can ask credit reporting companies to correct your information — each company has their own procedure for doing this.
In New Zealand you have the right to:
- ask for a copy of your own credit report
- check and correct information on your report that’s wrong
- ask that your credit file is “frozen” and not released to anyone without your permission
- complain to the credit reporting company.
I visited each of the 3 companies and applied for my own information. A few days later and I’ve had the first report.
Applying for the credit report was a little different and tedious for each company. I had to supply a photo of my driver’s licence and a letter from a power company or similar for some. I had to supply details of name, address, previous addresses, and so on. Two of the companies made it hard to enter addresses, using a stupid format that requires you to enter a number in one field, a street name in a second field and then use a dropdown to select the street type. Here I am entering a fictitious address in the next two screenshots.
To be fair, if the system knows about the address it tries to guess it and enters some of it for you. In my fictitious example it offered half a dozen completions for the street name starting with
cub, then I selected one at random. It still didn’t enter the required Suburb though.
Side note: such things are particularly annoying as I have two techniques for quickly and accurately entering addresses and other information on web forms. One is to use the Identities feature of 1Password. The other is to use TextExpander macros. Both can be foiled by stupid web forms and their many ways of making data entry more difficult, less secure and more prone to error.
Centrix sent me my credit report within a couple of days of my application. It comes as a locked PDF, and they supply the password. It is accompanied by another PDF with explanations of how to read the report.
I skimmed my credit report and it all seemed good. I was annoyed though by the single
overdue account for electricity from late last year.
For the last couple of decades we paid our power bill automatically: Genesis took the correct amount from our bank account on the due date. We still do that.
But in December 2015 we moved house and in the process Genesis messed up our payments, leaving us with an annoying surprise overdue bill. Luckily it was easily fixed and no extra charges accrued as it was their mistake. Apparently no-one told the credit company though.
Then I came back and read my credit report in detail, and I’m glad I did. They had me living at an address I’ve definitely never lived at. As far as I know I’ve never even visited that address. Where it came from on my report is a total mystery.
I’ve contacted the company and asked them to put things right.
Wherever you live, chances are good that at least one credit reporting company has information about you. I suggest you find out what that information is, and check it carefully. Incorrect information could have dramatically bad effects on your life.
Back in April 2016, in the USA, John Oliver published this almost 20 minute, very serious and extremely funny video on the topic. It’s absolutely worth watching.
Credit reports play a surprisingly large role in our lives, but even more surprising is how often they contain critical mistakes. John Oliver helps credit agencies see why this is a problem
Update 20 May 2016: I contacted Centrix about the errors in my report. They
froze my information while they investigated, removed the incorrect addresses and contacted Genesis about that incorrectly overdue power bill. Genesis cleared things up and Centrix have sent me my updated report which is now free of errors.
Meanwhile Dun & Bradstreet supplied a report which was all correct except for one place where they spelled my name incorrectly. I’m still waiting for the third report I applied for.