Nine million people were traced for debts last year – a number that’s on the rise.
And with many of us sharing the same name, mistakes can happen. But a year after proving his identity, X-Ray viewer Aaron Marshall was still being chased for debts he’d never accrued.
“I've never been in debt, never had a loan”, Aaron told Lucy Owen. “I'm really careful with money”.
So when he received a letter through the post from NatWest chasing for payment of an overdue overdraft Aaron was a little surprised - particularly because he had never banked with them, let alone taken out debt with them, “I started receiving phone calls from NatWest saying I owe them money and thought nothing of it, you got the wrong person and then I started receiving letters in the post, threatening to take me to court, and I have to pay them back soon, and they just wouldn’t stop, wouldn't leave me alone.”
And over the next few weeks he received even more letters for unpaid debts including a serious demand and a formal notice that the bank intended to “file a default” and “take action to recover debt”.
The problem was this Aaron Marshall had been mistaken for another Aaron Marshall, based 200 miles away in the Doncaster area and the two Aaron’s also shared a date of birth.
Four years ago one million people were being traced for debt, now that figure’s risen to nine million and the tracing agencies say sometimes, inevitably, the wrong people can be chased for debts they don't owe.
Luckily for Aaron, he managed to prove his identity and NatWest promised they would amend their records. But the letters didn’t stop.
NatWest had passed the incorrect Doncaster addresses onto the various credit rating agencies, and this got Aaron really worried, “Here's my credit report, and there's a load of addresses in Doncaster which I have never lived in. I want to get a mortgage later this year and I was really worried that this would really harm my application.”
Every time anyone tries to get a loan or a credit agreement a lender looks at their credit rating and if they’re linked to a lot of debt or missed payments then they may look like a risky bet and it could prevent them from getting a loan, mortgage or even a mobile phone contract.
Aaron needed NatWest to tell the ratings agencies about their mistake, “I have been at the end of my tether. I went to the bank so many times to sort it out. It's been incredibly stressful,” he told X-Ray, “This shouldn't be allowed to happen, it could have stopped me getting a mortgage, trashed my life.”
NatWest apologised for the length of time it had taken to “fully action his complaint”. They have promised to amend his records and have offered compensation for the trouble. Credit reference agency, Experian has also said sorry and explained, “due to the similarities between your viewer’s details and someone else’s, a number of lenders created links between them on our database.After Mr Marshall contacted us, we liaised with the lenders concerned and updated his report. Unfortunately, due to human error, we overlooked a duplicate link.
“We’re sending Mr Marshall a new report that will confirm that all links have been removed.”
Experian also advises people to regularly check their credit rating through their website or the other main agencies - Call Credit and Equifax to ensure there is nothing unusual or unexpected showing. The Credit Services Agency, which represents debt collectors, advises if you receive a letter chasing you for debt which you do not owe, don’t throw it away.
Get in touch and provide identity information – it will help you out in the long run.