How Safe is an Online Credit Report?
Online credit report and credit score offers seem to be everywhere these days. You can't turn on the television, surf the Internet or check your e-mail without seeing an advertisement enticing you to "see your online credit report and score instantly."
However, you might be wondering, "I know reviewing my credit information is important, but is it safe to view my online credit report?"
As long as you are careful to access your online credit report through a reputable credit reporting company, you are safe. In fact, the credit reporting bureaus point out that you may be more vulnerable to identity theft when your credit report is mailed to you. There's a greater likelihood that your "snail mail" credit report could be mis-delivered to a wrong address by a mail carrier or intercepted by a thief.
When you want to do a credit check, in the world of online credit reports, you have many options available to you. Under The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act), the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are required to provide all U.S. citizens with an annual free credit report upon request. The federal government established an official website, AnnualCreditReport.com, to provide consumers with a safe, secure site through which they can order their free online credit reports.
Additionally, there are a number of reputable companies who can provide you access to your online credit report as part of their credit management or identity theft protection services. Unfortunately, identity thieves have set up fraudulent websites with names that are similar to the reputable website as a means to lure in unsuspecting citizens and trick them into providing their private information, especially their Social Security Number (SSN).
Access your online credit report on a secure server
So how do you know whether your source for a free online credit report is safe? Well, you'll need to do some research to verify the legitimacy of the company and its offer, but since it's your finances that are at risk, it's certainly worth your while to do a web search on the company and confirm that its offer is valid and lawful.
If any of these security signs are missing, dismiss the offer, and order your credit report elsewhere. After all, there's no shortage of offers for a free online credit report. Remember: You're entitled to one free online credit report a year from each of the three credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com.