National Hunter – Experian’s secretive big brother

National Hunter – a little known credit agency that can scupper your applications for loan and other credit.

National Hunter - Stoke on Trent (Google StreetView)

Trading out of this anonymous office in Stoke on Trent is an agency providing information to banks, building societies and other lenders when assessing credit applications.

Although it is little known to the public, National Hunter information is used over 100,000 times a day to screen applications for discrepancies that might indicate to lenders that they have a suspicious or fraudulent application.

The use of databases to help identify fraudulent applications is of course a positive thing for all legitimate customers, however there are perceived problems with National Hunter – first, that this system is not well known, so the public rarely check what details are held here and second that lenders do not cite it as a reason for declining applications.

The information processed by National Hunter is different than that held by the credit reference agencies. Hunter does not hold details of your open accounts or records of your payment history – they are concerned only with the applications you have made with banks and lenders that are part of the ‘Hunter Group’.

As an example of a type of discrepancy that Hunter might highlight – a large increase in declared income, or complete change of employment type between applications made in a short space of time might be identified for further checks.

Whereas credit reference agencies such as Experian and Equifax offer online access to the data held on individuals, National Hunter offer no public teleph0ne number or email address for enquires.  Individuals wishing to access their information may only do so by submitting a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act.  Whilst the main credit reference agencies charge a £2 statutory fee to individuals wishing to access their data, N Hunter Limited charges the maximum £10 permitted under the data protection act under the ‘data subject access’ provisions.

National Hunter was founded by MCL Software Ltd and a consortium of UK banks in 1993.  The operation of MCL Software transferred to Experian Data Analytics who now operate the system on behalf of the consortium.  It is believed that over 60 institutions are now involved in data-sharing agreements with National Hunter.

Hunter is not involved in assessing the creditworthiness of an applicant in the same way Experian, Equifax or Call Credit do, rather its purpose is solely for fraud prevention.  As such, checks against the system are made only if an applicant passes initial credit scoring.

Hunter works across three main industry areas – credit/lending, insurance (where insurance claims can be screened for possible fraud) and local authority (concerned with, amongst other things, the payment of housing benefit).  There is no suggestion that information is shared across these ‘verticals’.

Hunter say that no applications are declined automatically on the basis of their information rather, any discrepencies are passed back to the lender for them to make further checks and a final decision.  Furthermore, if an application is subsequently declined by a lender due to the information they receive from Hunter, they should inform the customer of that fact.

Hunter has raised eyebrows because as with all applications errors can be made in the recording of information which can then cause future applications to be flagged.  This is especially true where applications are taken or keyed in by a third party, for instance where the person processing the initial application is not a financial professional.  This might happen in circumstances such as in a car or furniture showroom, or where a store card application being taken by store staff relaying information over the phone to an overseas call centre.  In these cases, incorrect information about a customer can be recorded that affects later applications that is not the customer’s fault and the customer is ultimately not aware of.

If you are finding that you are having difficulties in obtaining credit, and your Experian and Equifax credit reports contain only clean information, it might be advised to see whether the National Hunter system has recorded any adverse information about your previous applications.