Longer-term risk of fraud has the capacity to create the greatest damage

The Institute of Credit Management (ICM) is calling upon the government to provide free credit reference checks for all of the 25m individuals affected by the recent HMRC records debacle and provide better information on how consumers can avoid further fall-out from the crisis in the future.

Philip King, director general of the ICM explained: ‘The cost to the government of this latest fiasco is not something that can be measured simply in monetary terms but rather in the damage to their reputation and credibility for protecting the public purse.’

‘On that basis, if they were to talk to the credit reference agencies now and provide a subsidised or even free service for individuals to check their credit records then that would go some way at least to alleviating the immediate problem and the associated ‘cost’.

‘What it would not do, however, is prevent problems from occurring in the future, and to this end the government needs to advise consumers on what tools are available to them on an ongoing basis to prevent a disaster from becoming a catastrophe. It is in the gift of the government to do something about it, if they are brave enough to take the next step.’

The ICM, whose members work within the credit industry and therefore understand more than most the impact of adverse data in terms of access to credit, believes that the longer-term risk of fraud – perhaps six months or more after the theft of the data – has the capacity to create the greatest damage.

‘Checking your bank account details is of course the first step,’ says Mr King, ‘and will help you identify certain issues, and a credit check will allow you to see if your identity has already been stolen. What consumers need to be doing, however, is checking their records on an ongoing basis.

‘If we can encourage the public and private sector to work together to build greater awareness of the benefits of regular monitoring, then that can only have a positive impact on the current troubles.’