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Finding out who you owe money to

If you’ve lost track of what debts you have, for example if you’ve moved or haven’t heard from your creditors for a while, it’s important to find out who you owe money to.

Finding out more about your debts will help you to better understand your situation so you can start dealing with your debts. There are a number of ways you can find this information.

Check your credit file

Your credit file contains information about your debts, and other public information shared by lenders. It has details about your bank accounts, loans, cards and any other credit you’ve taken out. It may also have information about other bills, such as utilities and insurances.

Public information such as County Court judgments (CCJs) and insolvencies are also kept on your credit file, making this an ideal place to start searching.
There are three credit reference agencies in the UK:

  • Experian
  • Equifax
  • Callcredit

Get a free copy of your credit report online

All three credit reference agencies offer online services that give you access to your credit report:

  • Noddle is a free service offered by Callcredit
  • Equifax has a free service run by a company called ClearScore
  • Experian have a free service called Credit Matcher, but this doesn’t include full details of debts

The drawback with these free services is that they include adverts for financial products based on your credit history. If you’re struggling to deal with your debts, just ignore these adverts.

Information on your credit file is held by all three credit reference agencies, but the exact details they have might differ between them. This is because not all lenders share information with all three agencies.

Get a hard copy of your credit file

For £2 you can request a paper copy of your statutory credit report, giving you a full picture of your situation. Contact each of the credit reference agencies separately to find out how to get this.

There are also paid subscriptions to credit reference agencies. We don’t recommend paying for these, but there are free 30-day trials available which can be useful. Just make sure you cancel these before the trial ends as they can cost up to £15 a month.

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What if my debts aren’t on my credit file?

Information on your credit file will only show for a period of six years. After this, the information will be removed, even if you still owe the debt.
For example, if you missed a payment to a debt in January 2011, the record of the missed payment would be removed from your credit file in January 2017, even if you‘re still paying it off.

Details about your debts stay on your credit file for six years from the date they’re paid off, or the date the account went into default because of missed payments. This means credit reference agencies don’t hold information about old debts.

Some lenders might not add information to your credit file at all, for example many utility providers or insurance companies, as it’s not always required that they do this.

If you’ve checked with all three credit reference agencies and you still can’t find out details about all of your debts, the next thing to do is check letters and emails you’ve received, or get in touch with creditors.

Checking letters and emails from creditors

You should check any letters or emails you have, to see if they have information about what you owe, such as account numbers and balances.

If you’ve changed address and didn’t update your creditors, you could try and find out whether any mail went to your previous address by asking the new occupiers, landlord or agency, or providing them with a forwarding address if possible.

Get in touch with your creditors

If you remember taking out debts to specific creditors, contacting them can be one of the easiest ways to get more information. While contacting creditors can seem a scary prospect, it’ll help you find out more about your debts. You can also explain to creditors that you’re looking to deal with your debts, and ask them to give you some breathing space while you find out more and seek help and advice.

Sometimes debts are passed to debt collection companies, who take over the ownership of the debt from the original creditor. However the original creditor should have a record of this and will be able to provide you details of who the debt is now with.

Check your bank account statements

Most payments for debts are taken from your bank account either by Direct Debit, standing order or using your debit card. If you use online banking or have copies of old statements you can check these, or ask your bank for help. A good place to search is the list of cancelled Direct Debits, as this might contain useful information. 

Banks may only show recent statements in your online banking account, and may charge for copies of older statements.

Finding CCJs and court records using Trust Online

If you have a County Court judgment (CCJ), or a Decree in Scotland, this should appear on your credit file for six years from the date of the judgment.

If you think you have a judgment or Decree but it isn’t shown on your credit file, you can check the public register of judgments, operated by the Registry Trust. You can apply to find out information from them at Trust Online

If you have a CCJ or Decree, the register will show the:

  • date of the judgement
  • amount owed
  • name of the court who issued the judgment

If you find out about a judgment that you weren’t previously aware of, you should quickly take steps to deal with the CCJ or Decree and understand your options.

The register won’t tell you the name of the creditor, but you can contact the court to find out these details.

There’s a £4 fee to access this information, which is why we’d suggest searching your credit file first. As with your credit file, there’s also a six year limit to how long the information will be held for.

Finding HMRC, Council Tax, CSA and benefit overpayment debts

To help you find debts owed to government departments or agencies such as HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs), local authorities and the Child Support Agency (CSA), you’ll need to get in touch with the right agency or department.
We’ve listed some useful contacts here:

Should I wait for creditors to contact me about what I owe?

If you can’t find any information about your debts from your credit file, letters, correspondence, or bank statements then your only option is to wait for creditors contact you.

Creditors will use your last known address or the address on your credit file to find you, so keep these updated. Specialist tracing agents can also be employed by debt collection agencies or creditors to find you.

Some people deliberately avoid repaying debts or contacting creditors, in the hope that either the debts go away or creditors give up. This is almost guaranteed to make your situation worse as you risk further action against you, and the balances of your debts could keep going up.

We’d only suggest waiting for creditors to contact you as a last resort.

Helping you become debt free...

“I wish to thank your staff for all the great help they gave me when I was in so much debt.
They were a pillar of support to me.” (Leslie, Essex)

Foundation for Credit Counselling Wade House, Merrion Centre, Leeds, LS2 8NG trading as StepChange Debt Charity and StepChange Debt Charity Scotland. A registered charity no.1016630 and SC046263. It is a limited company registered in England and Wales (company no:2757055). Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

*This is the average rating of our service based on the StepChange reviews on Feefo by DMP and DRO clients three months into their solution.

© StepChange Debt Charity 2017