Question: We were recently fraud victims and had our credit card cloned, which I assume has damaged our credit record. Will our remortgage next month be affected? We can't afford any higher rate than what we're paying at the moment. John Watt, Bath
Answer: Fraud's most foul impact isn't the crime itself: it's usually the messy clear-up afterwards. A cloned credit card is stressful enough but ensuring your mortgage isn't tainted and goes as smoothly as possible is much more critical – and you've got to move as quickly as possible.
Your overriding aim is to find out as much information about what's happened to your credit rating ahead of your planned remortgage. If nothing's wrong, you can relax – but if the fraud has left a lingering mark, you'll need to rectify it as swiftly as possible, says James Jones of credit rating agency Experian.
"If your fraud was detected swiftly and resolved quickly by the lender, there's a chance it won't even appear on your credit file – leaving your record clean and your mortgage application unaffected," he says.
This is because lenders send monthly updates to the credit agencies showing your balance, any arrears and the like. So if your fraud was very swiftly dealt with inside a matter of days, there's a good chance its details won't be recorded for your mortgage lender to see. But you can't assume anything with so much at stake. "Your first move, then, is to check your credit record for £2 with any of the ratings agencies – Experian.-co.uk, Equifax.co.uk or CallCredit.co.uk – to determine exactly what details are listed," says Jemma Smith at UK Cards Association.
If nothing is listed, then you're in the clear. But if the fraud details do still show up – whether it was a busted credit limit or missed fraudulent payments – you'll need to ensure a speedy correction. Otherwise, it could be left on view for potential mortgage lenders that these errors were yours.
Ask the credit rating agency to request that a 'note' be flagged on your account disputing the details as fraud and requesting that it be wiped from your record. The agency will then liaise with your credit card provider to double-check details, but at least it'll clarify the fraud for mortgage lenders who look at your credit record.
It can't be underestimated how crucial speed is here. What you must avoid, warns David Hollingworth at broker London & Country, is letting a possible stain on your credit record stand uncorrected.
"If it's left alone, you could have your remortgage application declined outright by lenders," he says, or it could offer you a much higher rate instead.