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Credit given without income checks

Almost five million people have been granted credit cards in the past year without having to prove their income, according to research published on Wednesday.

Some 84 percent of successful credit card applicants — 4.8 million people — were not asked to provide any proof of income, such as payslips, to support the figures stated in their applications in the past 12 months, according to a YouGov poll of 4,048 people.

The survey, commissioned by price comparison website uSwitch.com, also showed that 14 percent were not asked about their salary or outgoings during the application process — yet they obtained average credit of 3,545 pounds, equal to a total of 2.9 billion pounds.

Just 8 percent of those surveyed were asked for proof of income or outgoings when taking out credit.

Some 5 percent of people confessed to lying about their salary when applying for a credit card, adding up to 70 percent onto their actual income and securing over 693 million pounds worth of credit as a result.

“We cannot ignore the fact that the credit crunch has forced lenders to tighten their belts and reject applications that may lead to further write-offs,” said Simeon Linstead, head of personal finance at uSwitch.com.

“(But) the fact remains that just because a consumer appears to have a ‘suitable’ credit score, it doesn’t mean they are always honest about their income and actually have the cash available each month to pay the bill.

“The credit squeeze will back some consumers into a corner and — in sheer desperation — people will resort to lying about their salaries as this is such an easy loophole to exploit.”

He said it was too early to tell whether the latest version of the Banking Code, which came into effect in March 2008 and made credit reference checks mandatory, was having the desired effect.

The new code makes it necessary for companies to also take at least one of three other measures: obtain details of income and financial commitments; evidence of how finances have been handled in the past; use credit assessment techniques, such as credit scoring or internal credit scoring processes.

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