Article by Beth Jennings - 1st October 2021

Why Searches Can’t Be Removed From Your Credit Report

The Searches section of your Credit Report shows you who has accessed the information on your Credit Report within the last couple of years. This effectively acts as a log of when you’ve checked your own Report, as well as a record of lenders checking as a result of applications for credit in your name. You’re also likely to see searches relating to prospective employers, landlords, insurance companies and other identity checks.

In the majority of cases, searches can’t be removed from a Credit Report. It is the legal duty of both lenders and Credit Reference Agencies to ensure that the data they provide is as accurate as possible and as such, if a search is made on your Credit Report, it remains visible for a period of one to two years depending on the agency. It is only really where searches are recorded in error or fraudulently that they can be potentially removed.

From the point of view of lenders and Credit Reference Agencies, searches are also needed for auditing purposes. An audit trail can be used to provide supporting documentation or prove that a company has been compliant with the regulations within the sector it operates.

In the vast majority of cases, searches are nothing to worry about and are just part of the bigger picture when it comes to establishing your Credit Rating.

Why are there searches if I haven’t applied for credit?

Not all searches relate to applications for credit – indeed, on a typical Credit Report, the majority of searches probably relate to other activities.

Examples of organisations that are likely to access your Credit Report for purposes other than applying for credit include:

  • Utility Companies: Where bills are issued in arrears (effectively for energy already used), utility companies want some reassurance that a customer doesn’t have a history of serious arrears or credit problems – especially with other utility companies. Utility companies cannot refuse to connect a property (within a certain distance of mains supply) but in some cases – for example where an applicant is bankrupt – they may insist on prepayment meters rather than billing in arrears.
  • Mobile phone contracts: It may not seem like it, but contract phones can be viewed as a form of credit – again because bills are issued in arrears although they are rarely subject to a consumer credit agreement. As the value of handsets continues to increase, confidence about a customer’s ability to repay is an important consideration.
  • Insurance companies: Whether you apply directly or via a comparison site, insurance companies will check your Credit Report. This will form part of any identity verification check, but also allows the provider to assess the risk of offering monthly, rather than annual billing.
  • Some employers: In certain jobs – financial services or the police for example – extra checks will be undertaken prior to any offer of employment to reduce fraud and spot signs of severe financial distress or bankruptcy.
  • Government services: Information held by Credit Reference Agencies is often used as part of the verification checks on things like passport and benefits applications.

Financial information is not deemed ‘sensitive’ personal data (as defined by the Information Commissioners Office) but there are measures in place to ensure that not just anyone can access your personal information.

Lenders you hold existing credit agreements with might search your Credit Report (provided you have given consent for them to do this, as is often included in the terms and conditions) to make sure that you are still maintaining your financial commitments in a way that they are happy with.

If lenders see that you have taken on a series of additional loans and credit cards since opening your account with them or recently missed payments they may choose to adjust your interest rate or maximum borrowing amount as a result of this.

Searches recorded as a result of fraud

Should you ever fall victim to identity fraud, search records can be a good way of checking to see if any credit applications have been made using your details. Even if an account isn’t opened, the record of the application will be there for you to see and should act as a prompt to takes further steps to protect yourself.

If a search is created as a result of fraudulent activity, it is likely that the lender concerned will need to carry out further investigation before removing the search, but you shouldn’t be penalised if you’re an innocent victim.

Other benefits of credit searches

In addition to helping you keep an eye out for potential cases of fraud and making sure that lenders use your personal information responsibly, the presence of credit searches on your Credit Report could help your creditworthiness.

Some lenders like to see that you are ‘credit active’ and so evidence of having applied for credit within the past two years is not viewed as a bad thing. The impact may be minimal, and you certainly shouldn’t apply for credit for the sake of it, but every little helps.

What impact will it have on my Credit Rating?

The vast majority of Search Footprints will not have any impact on your Credit Rating, and won’t affect your ability to get credit.

Only two types of search can have a direct impact on your ability to take out credit:

Application Searches

Directly relating to applications for credit, there is a certain amount of myth and misunderstanding about how the number of searches on your Credit Report affects you.

The only time that the number of searches will have an adverse effect on your ability to get credit is if you make a very large number of applications in a very short space of time. In this case, lenders may view it as a sign of financial distress or even fraud. Generally though, you should be fine shopping around for credit and comparing offers from different providers.

Debt Collector Searches

Credit searches carried out by debt collectors will be visible to anyone searching your full Credit Report, which they may take as a strong indication that you have had issues making repayments in the past – and are likely to again in the future.

If you have been turned down for credit, the number and type of search footprints on your Credit Report are unlikely to be the main culprit. Instead, it is much more likely that another entry on your Credit Report, such as your payment history, any court information or your presence on the Electoral Roll is to blame.

On very rare occasions, it is possible for multiple searches to be recorded in relation to a single application, and in this case it is advisable to ask the lender concerned to ‘collapse’ the searches to ensure that the information isn’t misinterpreted by other lenders as multiple applications.

Depending on the type of search and which Credit Reference Agency is reporting it, searches will be removed automatically after one to two years. There’s nothing you need to do, other than stay aware of what’s being reported.

To see who has been checking your Credit Report, you can try checkmyfile free for 30 days, then for just £14.99 a month afterwards. You’ll get access to the UK’s most detailed Credit Report, with information from three Credit Reference Agencies, not just one.

Updated by Sam Griffin on 1 October 2021

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