The Credit Services Association (CSA) has issued some simple guidance around debt, and particularly how to avoid becoming a case of ‘mistaken identity’ and how to resolve the matter should it occur.

·       Keep creditors up-to-date with current contact details: If you move, change phone number, email address, or even change your name, inform all of your creditors, including your Local Authority. Most problems start when a creditor is unable to reach the customer at the last known contact address. This means that vital correspondence might never be received.

·       Don’t ignore letters from your creditors: it is never in a DCA’s interests to pursue payment from someone who is either unable to pay or who is a case of mistaken identity. Ignoring the problem will not resolve the issue. Conversely, responding to correspondence will help to resolve an issue more quickly.

·       Communication is key: the financial services sector is heavily regulated, and customers have everything to gain and nothing to lose by engaging with a DCA or indeed the creditor to ensure that any outstanding balances are paid, or incidents of mistaken identity are communicated as soon as possible. 

Claire Aynsley, Head of Regulatory Compliance and Standards at the CSA, says that many debt-related issues could be significantly reduced if there is proper dialogue: “While it is the responsibility of our members to do everything in their power to make the process as easy as possible, it is also the responsibility of us all to keep our creditors informed of any change in our details. Such a simple step could have a dramatic impact in reducing the cases of mistaken identity, or customers being pursued for a debt they never knew they had.”

With 40% of adults saying that they are not in control of their finances, financial capability will be a major focus for 2017.