A Guide to CIFAS Markers
If you applied for credit in the past, you may have encountered the term ‘CIFAS markers‘.
They have been referred to by the media during recent years, with some businesses and individuals finding it difficult to access credit because of the presence of a CIFAS marker on their file.
This guide looks at CIFAS markers in detail; what they are, how long they are in place for, and how you might go about removing one.
What are CIFAS markers?
CIFAS stands for ‘Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System‘, a not-for-profit fraud prevention membership organisation.
It operates as a fraud prevention service, and manages the largest database of fraudulent conduct instances in the UK.
Membership of the organisation encompasses a wide range of sectors, with members sharing their data with the aim of reducing fraud and crime.
Most financial institutions are members of the CIFAS, and through it they share large amounts of data about companies and individuals.
CIFAS markers are adverse judgements through which one institution, be it a bank, loan company or an insurer, for example, can warn another about risks associated with a potential customer.
The most common markers that are placed on an individual’s file are for ‘First Party Fraud’ and ‘Application Fraud’.
Having a CIFAS marker means that any application for credit, or other financial services from the address, may be subject to further checks.
It can present particular problems when you apply for credit, which is checked automatically, such as store finance. As the entry would need to be manually checked, an automated system is likely to reject your application.
How do I know if I have a CIFAS marker?
If you’ve been a victim of fraud, you will find the marker on your credit report.
This is known as a Victim of Impersonation entry. This is filed by a lender for your own protection.
Your credit report is compiled by one of three credit agencies, all of whom have a statutory duty to provide you with a copy of your credit report for free.
It will contain details of your financial transactions, and other information such as whether you appear on the electoral register.
You can usually access this report online, or by requesting a written copy.
A Victim of Impersonation marker will remain visible on your report for 13 months from the date of entry.
Another type of marker that may appear is Protective Registration.
This is a paid-for service that individuals can request via CIFAS, or indirectly through another provider, when they suspect they have been the victim of identity fraud.
The only way you can find out about the other categories of CIFAS marker is by making a Data Subject Access Request to CIFAS. This is because the institution that placed the mark against your record is under no obligation to inform you that they have done or to explain why.
CIFAS markers: the categories and length of time on your file
There is a range of markers that may appear on your credit report.
1. Protective Registration: this will appear for two years from the date you purchased the service. It appears on the CIFAS database as a request by the consumer.
2. Victim of Impersonation: if you have been the victim of identity fraud, then a marker will appear on your file for 13 months.
3. First Party Fraud: this involves the promise of future repayment in exchange for goods or services, but with no intent to repay. This can remain on your file for up to six years.
4. Facility Takeover: this is where an individual’s current facility, such as a bank account, is taken over by a fraudster and is then used for unauthorised transactions, or the details are changed. This can remain on your file for up to six years.
5. Misuse of Facility: this is where an account or other facility is obtained, with the deliberate intent of using that facility for a fraudulent purpose. This can remain on your file for up to six years.
6. Asset Conversion: this is where an individual sells goods, to which they do not have title to, under a hire purchase, conditional sale, contract hire, leasing or rental agreement. This most often involves motor vehicles. This can remain on your file for up to six years.
7. Application Fraud: this is where an application is made in the individual’s name, but false details, such as salary, address or employment is included. It may also include falsified documents. This can remain on your file for up to six years.
8. Insurance Claims Fraud: this concerns instances where false information is provided on an insurance claim with the intention of receiving a monetary payout. This can remain on your file for up to six years.
What do CIFAS markers affect?
Every time you apply for credit, or a new financial facility, it’s possible that any CIFAS markers on your file may impact on your application.
The most typical applications on which it can have an effect include:
Mortgages are perhaps the most significant financial arrangement most of us will enter into. It’s therefore understandable that lenders will take a keen interest in our credit and financial history when we make an application.
CIFAS markers on your account don’t automatically mean yours will be rejected, but it might perhaps slow the process down.
Car insurance applications
CIFAS markers do not prevent a car insurance application, although it might mean that payment methods are limited.
You might be denied credit facilities, and instead, be asked to pay for your insurance up front. It could also result in a more expensive premium.
Other forms of lending
Any form of loan agreement that you enter into could result in a credit check that reveals CIFAS markers.
If you’re looking for business finance, a personal loan, an overdraft, or a mobile phone contract, any application will be impacted by a CIFAS marker.
While they may not result in your application being automatically rejected, they can complicate matters.
Will a CIFAS marker affect my student loan application?
Unlike other forms of credit, student loan eligibility is not based on your creditworthiness. If, however, a CIFAS marker has resulted in your bank account being withdrawn, then a student loan cannot be paid.
Does a CIFAS marker show on a criminal record or through a Disclosure & Barring Service check?
CIFAS markers pertain purely to financial conduct and are not recorded on any criminal record. If you have been prosecuted for any financial misconduct related to CIFAS markers, then that is likely to appear on a criminal record.
Can employers become aware of CIFAS markers?
Employers can access the CIFAS database should they so wish.
In practice, checks are generally restricted to employers in certain sectors, such as finance and law. They will then use any information they obtain to inform their decision about whom to employ.
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.
It is possible in some instances to remove CIFAS markers from the database.
Step 1: Request a CIFAS letter
Make a Direct Subject Access Request (DSAR) to CIFAS, requesting a letter setting out the details of the marker(s) that they hold on their database.
This can often be a relatively small amount of information, and the institution that supplied it is not required to provide the evidence this was based on.
Step 2: Contact the institution that issued the marker and request removal
Once the CIFAS letter has been received, you can then contact the institution that issued your marker to request further information before asking for the marker to be removed.
Step 3: Request CIFAS review
If the institution turns down your request for the marker to be removed, you can then request a review directly with the CIFAS, provided that a final response letter has been issued by the institution.
CIFAS are required to adjudicate on the matter within 14 days.
Step 4: Complain to the relevant ombudsman or complaint service
If CIFAS uphold the institution’s decision and refuse to remove the marker, it’s possible to raise a complaint with the relevant ombudsman for the institution that put the marker in place.
If, for example, it was a bank, then the Financial Ombudsman would be the relevant authority to contact.
If it was a mobile phone company, the relevant ombudsman would be the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS).
Other Fraud Databases: SIRA and National Hunter
Both these databases hold fields of data derived from applications made to institutions who are members of SIRA and National Hunter. The limited data held includes an applicant’s name, date of birth, address, phone number(s) (home and mobile) and email address provided on an application. National Hunter’s members are all financial institutions regulated by the FCA.
Where SIRA is concerned its members supply the limited data but also an assessment: ‘clear’ or ‘refer’. Where ‘clear’ is recorded this signals that the member has found nothing problematic with the application. But where ‘refer’ is recorded this signals the member believes there is something about the applications that require further investigation. ‘Clear’ assessments stay on SIRA for six years and ‘refer’ assessments stay on for six years. National Hunter operates in a similar way but its members can also use the additional terms ‘inconsistency’ and ‘suspicious’ about the information supplied by applicants.
The same approach to CIFAS marker removal can be taken to challenging entries on these two databases.
Richardson Lissack’s experience with CIFAS marker removal
At Richardson Lissack, we have extensive experience of advising individuals how to request the removal of CIFAS markers.
Challenging the decision of institutions, particularly those in the financial sector, can be a lengthy and involved process so we would always recommend seeking professional help. We deploy our deep knowledge of data protection law to ensure that not only does the institution respond to a SAR in a GDPR compliant fashion but also to interrogate, investigate and challenge the underlying reasons given for imposition of the marker.
As well as a firm grounding in CIFAS markers and their removal, the team also have first-hand experience with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – the regulator for the financial sector.
For more advice about CIFAS markers, speak to our expert team today.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org