Don't ignore letter from credit card protection firm - it's not a scam

happy girl holding fan of cash...

With so many of us being badgered by payment protection insurance recovery firms, it's easy to dismiss a letter inviting you to put in a claim.

But thousands of people are believed to have ignored a letter and form that could actually get them an easy refund - those that have claimed already have netted an average of £180 each.

Between January 2005 and 2013, people paying for credit card protection schemes - designed to cover cases of lost or stolen cards or ID fraud – were getting nothing for their money. They were entitled to cover in any case.

And last year, a scheme was set up to repay customers who bought one of six policies - Card Protection, Sentinel, Sentinel Gold, Sentinel Protection, Sentinel Excel, Safe and Secure Plus.

They were sold to customers of 11 major banks: AIB Group (trading as First Trust Bank in Northern Ireland and Allied Irish Bank in Great Britain; Barclays; Capital One; Clydesdale Bank; HSBC; Lloyds; Northern Bank (trading as Danske Bank); Santander; Tesco Personal Finance; the Co-operative and the Royal Bank of Scotland,

Clock is ticking

All affected customers should have received a claim form in August or September last year - but many have done nothing about it. And the deadline for submitting a claim is now less than a month away.

"The clock is ticking if you want to claim for mis-sold credit card security protection products; you have just four weeks to complete the paperwork and get your money back," says Hannah Maundrell, editor in chief of price comparison site money.co.uk.

Around two million letters were sent out by Affinion International Limited (AI), and forms must be completed and sent back by 18 March. All you have to do is sign, date and return it; you don't have to provide any documentary evidence to support your claim.

If you've lost yours - or think you should have received one but didn't - you should contact the AI Scheme helpline on 0800 678 1930 or visit http://www.aischeme.co.uk/.

"With the average annual policy costing £25 a year, refunds could total £275 plus interest," says Maundrell. "You only need to fill in a short claims form, it's really simple, so don't even think about paying anyone else to do it for you."

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How to dispute your credit record
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Don't ignore letter from credit card protection firm - it's not a scam

Don't wait until you need to apply for credit to view your credit record – do it now so you know where you stand and can deal with any disputes. When applying for credit, you give the lender permission to view your record, so it makes sense to view it yourself first.

You can access your record via any of the main credit agencies in the UK. By law, all the credit agencies are required to provide you with a one-off copy for just £2 so don't be hoodwinked into signing up to pay a monthly fee.

Your report shows what credit accounts you've had and whether you've made repayments on time and in full. According to Experian, items such as missed or late payments stay on your credit report for at least three years, while Court Judgments for non-payment of debts, Bankruptcies and Individual Voluntary Arrangements stick around for around six years.

Your credit report shows the current address at which you are registered to vote as well as details of other addresses you've been linked to in the last six years. Another section lists people you have a financial connection with, such as a joint mortgage. When you apply for credit, lenders are able to look at their credit history as their circumstances could affect your ability to repay what you owe.

Scrutinise your record to make sure there are no mistakes. Even a minor error such as an incorrect address or wrongly linked account could hinder your chances of being approved for credit so make sure all your details are correct and that all your borrowings are on record. If there is a discrepancy, contact the three main credit agencies to get it corrected.

A default notice is note that a lender puts on your credit file if you fall behind with your payments. It is a warning sign to future lenders about your reliability to repay credit and could mean that they will be less likely to lend to you or will increase the interest rate.

If the default notice is incorrect, perhaps because you have repaid the loan in full or did not take out the credit and suspect that you have fallen victim to fraud, you can apply to have a default notice removed. A default notices will only be removed if it is factually incorrect – not simply because you are embarrassed by it.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

If you are unhappy with the response or would just like to explain a missed payment on your file you can send a Notice of Correction. This is a statement of up to 200 words that will be added to your file. Although lenders don't have to take this information into account, it at least gives you the chance to tell your side of the story.

Experian states that agencies will also help you escalate the dispute to a third party arbitrator if necessary, such as the Information Commissioner's Office.

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