CIFAS stands for Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System and is a laudable attempt by the financial services sector to fight fraud and identity theft by encouraging participating organisations to:
- Exchange details of applications for products or services which are considered to be fraudulent, inconsistent or suspicious.
- Exchange information about accounts and services which are being misused.
- Exchange information about insurance and other claims that are considered to be fraudulent, inconsistent or suspicious.
The exchanged information is stored on a database maintained by CIFAS. That database can have a considerable effect on applicants’ ability to open bank accounts or apply for any form of credit or insurance.
The reason for the database’s power is its use by banks and other financial institution as a suppository for negative judgments they have formed about applicants for their products, whether justifiable or not – commonly known as the ‘CIFAS marker’.
An adverse judgment can often be formed in seemingly innocuous and innocent circumstances such as an individual not pursuing a loan application to conclusion: approved in principle but electing not to take the offer up and in doing so choosing not to supply further information requested.
How do I know if I have a CIFAS marker?
Where an individual has been the victim of fraud (see marker category 2 below) the marker will show on credit report.
For all other categories the only way for an individual to know whether they have a CIFAS marker is by making a Data Subject Access Request (DSAR) to CIFAS. This is because the institution which placed the marker in the first place has no obligation to tell the individual to whom it relates.
The existence of the CIFAS marker can often go unknown to individuals for years until such time as they make an application for another financial product such as a mortgage and are rejected. Depending on the categorisation a CIFAS marker can exist for up to six years.
CIFAS markers: the categories and length of time on file
1. Protective Registration: 2 years (for individuals who are concerned they may have been the victim of identity theft, for an annual fee, CIFAS will monitor usage of identity details for up to 2 years)
2. Victim of Impersonation/Victim of takeover: 13 months
3. First Party Fraud: up to 6 years
4. Facility Takeover: up to 6 years
5. Misuse of Facility: up to 6 years
6. Asset Conversion: up to 6 years
7. Application Fraud: up to 6 years
8. Insurance Claims Fraud: up to 6 years
What do CIFAS markers effect?
Yes – although it does not prevent an application it can undoubtedly affect its success.
Car insurance applications?
Yes – although it does not prevent an application it can undoubtedly affect its success, may limit the payment methods available (i.e. the premium may have to be paid in full at the start of the policy) and result in a more expensive premium.
Student loan applications? – can you get one with a CIFAS marker?
Having a CIFAS marker should not affect an individual’s ability to apply for a student loan.
However, if the CIFAS marker has resulted in the individual having their bank facility withdrawn, without access to a personal bank account the loan cannot be paid.
Where an individual has been the victim of identity fraud/impersonation the relevant CIFAS marker category can appear on a credit report.
Does a CIFAS marker show on a criminal records check (Disclosure and Barring Service)?
Can employers become aware of CIFAS markers?
Yes. Employers in some sectors, such as financial services, do run checks on the CIFAS database to see if applicants have a record. They will then use that information to determine whether or not to offer them a job.
Removal: Can CIFAS markers be removed?
The good news is that CIFAS markers can be challenged. The following steps explain each part of the process of removing CIFAS markers.
Step 1: Use DSAR to get the CIFAS letter
In the first instance a individual should contact CIFAS directly and use a Direct Subject Access Request (DSAR) to receive a CIFAS letter setting out the detail of the marker that has been supplied to them by the institution that has put it there. It’s worth noting that this is often a very small amount of information (less than half a page) and the institution is not required by CIFAS to provide the evidence relied on.
Step 2: Contact the institution who issued the marker to request removal
Once the CIFAS letter has been received an individual who wishes to challenge the marker can contact the institution and request further information about why the marker was imposed and ask for it to be removed.
Step 3: Request CIFAS review
If the request to the institution is unsuccessful the individual can complain to CIFAS itself, provided a final response letter has been issued by the institution.
CIFAS are, in theory supposed to adjudicate the matter within 14 days.
Step 4: Complain to the relevant ombudsman/complaint service
Should CIFAS not uphold the complaint the individual can then raise a complaint with the relevant ombudsman for the institution that put the marker in place.
If that institution is a bank then the relevant ombudsman is Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) – if the institution was a mobile phone company it would be the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS).
Richardson Lissack’s experience with CIFAS marker removal
Richardson Lissack has substantial experience of advising individuals requesting the removal of CIFAS markers.
It can be a significant undertaking to challenge the validity of an institution’s decision making, particularly when it operates in the financial services sector.
Richardson Lissack’s team can call upon previous experience at the financial services’ regulator (the Financial Conduct Authority).
Our lawyers are available 24/7 to assist you and provide legal advice. Contact London 020 3753 5352 or Manchester 0161 834 7284. Alternatively you can email email@example.com