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UK victims of identity fraud are being urged to use the Data Protection Act as a tool to restore their credit rating.

E-Victims.Org, a former internet support group for those affected by cybercrime, said that even after victims are able to establish fraud and absolve themselves of liability to fraudulent debt they are still left with a black mark against their name on credit rating reports.

Simply contacting credit reference agencies to ask for corrections to be made is often not enough to restore reputations, the group argues. The problem arises because credit reference agencies collect and republish data sent to them by lenders. Inaccuracies in that information will be passed on to credit reference reports.

Lenders need to alter their records to reflect that a consumer has not run out on a debt but been a victim of identity theft. E-victims.org reckons the Data Protection Act can be used to push lenders to reconsider their opinions, a process that otherwise take years to go through. In most cases loans can eventually be secured even with imperfect credit histories but interest rates will be higher than for those with unblemished records.

"We still advise victims to contact the three credit agencies to identify inaccurate information and to put in a notice of correction. But then we suggest that victims use the Data Protection Act to get the underlying records changed," explained Jennifer Perry, managing director of e-victims.org.

"Under data protection law consumers can demand to see the details of transactions made in their name, and have the right to correct anything inaccurate." If the lender fails to respond to a request to alter their files, or refuses to do so, then the credit reference agency is unable to amend a victim's record. Data Protection Act requests create an incentive for lenders to "investigate and make changes to erroneous data", Perry added.

A factsheet, Clearing up your credit report, is available from the e-victims.org website here.

The advice comes at the start of the UK's National Identity Fraud Prevention Week, which runs form 6 to 12 October. The week aims to raise awareness about the dangers of identity theft, alongside support to victims of fraud and fraud prevention advice. More info is on the campaign's website. ®

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