If you’ve lost track of what debts you have, it can be difficult to know where to start or how to find out to who you owe money.
Missing payments to your debts will affect your credit rating and could make it harder to get other credit in future.
Finding out more about your debts will help you to better understand your situation so you can start dealing with repayments and improving your credit score.
There are a number of ways you can find this information.
1. Check your credit file
The easiest way to find out what you owe is to check your credit file online. It has information about all your debts, as well as details about your bank accounts, loans, cards and any other credit you’ve taken out.
Public information such as County Court judgments (CCJs) and insolvencies are also kept on your credit file.
There are three credit reference agencies in the UK – Experian, Equifax and Callcredit – who all provide this information online.
For £2 you can also request a paper copy of your statutory credit report for more detail. Contact each of the credit reference agencies separately to find out how to get this.
2. Check emails and letters from creditors
You should also check any letters or emails you have, to see if they have important information about what you owe.
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.
3. Contact your creditors
You may not be able to remember all the debts you have taken out, but if you can, it’s always worth contacting those specific creditors directly to get more information.
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, but the original creditor should have a record of this and will be able to provide you details of who the debt is now with.
4. Check your bank account statements
Given that most debt repayments are taken directly from your bank account via Direct Debit, standing order or using your debit card, checking your statement is a good step to take.
If you use online banking or have copies of old statements you can check these, or ask your bank for help – although they may charge for copies of older statements.
A good place to search is the list of cancelled Direct Debits, as this might contain useful information.
5. Find CCJs and court records online
If you have a County Court judgment (CCJ), or a Decree in Scotland, this will likely appear on your credit file for six years from the date of the judgement.
If you think you have a CCJ or Decree but it isn’t shown on your credit file, you can check the public register operated by the Registry Trust at Trust Online for a £6 fee.
If you have a CCJ discharge or Decree, the register will show the:
• date of the judgement
• amount owed
• name of the court who issued the judgement
The register won’t tell you the name of the creditor, but you can contact the court to find out these details.
If you find out about a judgement that you weren’t previously aware of, you should quickly take steps to deal with the CCJ and fully understand your options.
6. Find HMRC, Council Tax, CSA and other debts online
For other debts owed to government departments or agencies, you’ll need to contact the right agency or department.
7. Only wait for your creditors to contact you as an absolute last resort
If you can’t find any information about your debts from your credit file, letters or bank statements then you’ll have to wait for your creditors to contact you.
Only do this as an absolute last resort and if you’ve exhausted every other option.
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 track you down.