Illustration: Colin Daniel

Your credit report is confidential and off-limits to anyone unless he or she is legally permitted to call for it or has your explicit consent to view it.

Your credit report may be issued by a credit bureau to the extent permitted or required by the National Credit Act (NCA) for “prescribed purposes”, or to the extent permitted or required by other legislation, or if you consent or give instruction to release your information.

The NCA provides for the following “prescribed purposes”:

* A credit affordability assessment;

* Developing a credit scoring system by a credit provider or credit bureau;

* Tracing a consumer by a credit provider in respect of a credit agreement between a consumer and a credit provider;

* Setting a limit of service provision in respect of any continuous service (this refers to any service that involves revolving credit, including store cards, credit cards and your cellphone contract);

* Assessing an application for insurance;

* Obtaining consumer information to distribute unclaimed funds, including pension funds and insurance claims;

* Fraud detection and fraud prevention services;

* An investigation into fraud, corruption or theft, provided that the South African Police Service or any other statutory enforcement agency conducts such an investigation;

* Considering a candidate for employment in a position that requires trust and honesty and that entails the handling of cash or finances; and

* Verifying employment and educational qualifications. (Although none of the “big four” credit bureaus records your qualifications, the definition of consumer credit information in the NCA includes information about your level of education.)

The NCA says in certain instances your consent is needed before your report can be issued. These instances include:

* When you are being considered for employment in a position that requires honesty and entails handling cash or finances;

* To verify your educational qualifications and employment;

* To assess an application for insurance; and

* To set a limit of service provision in respect of any continuous service.

You can also give consent for your credit profile to be viewed for a reason that is not a prescribed purpose – such as when you sign a rental agreement, deal with a recruitment consultant, or give consent to a debt counsellor or debt repair agency to act on your behalf.

If anyone has viewed your report without your consent or for any purpose other than a prescribed purpose, he or she has broken the law and could be seeking to commit fraud against you. But if you don’t check your credit report, you won’t be aware of it.

Remember that your consent to issue or not issue your credit report is not given to a credit bureau but to its subscribers (such as credit providers). This is usually included in the subscriber’s standard terms and conditions that you sign when you enter into an agreement with it.

Annelene Dippenaar, legal adviser at Compuscan, says this is why it is so important to check your credit report regularly: your report records who has viewed it.

LOST YOUR IDENTITY DOCUMENT

Identity fraud is dramatically on the rise in South Africa. If you lose your identity document (ID), you need to report this to the police and fill in an affidavit. Fax a copy of the affidavit and the case number to a credit bureau and it will place an alert on your profile and monitor inquiries to your profile.

You can also contact South African Fraud Prevention Services (011 867 2234 or [email protected]) and register your ID or passport as stolen. This is a free service aimed at protecting a person whose ID or passport has been stolen from becoming a victim of identity theft. If you suspect you have become a victim of identity fraud, you can call South African Fraud Prevention Services’ helpline on 0860 10 12 48.

SUSPICIOUS ACCOUNTS?

If your credit profile reflects accounts that you did not open, you should contact the credit providers concerned and request that they provide you with the application forms that you allegedly signed when you opened the accounts. – www.compuscan.co.za