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Topics addressed on September 19, 2007:
It is safer and faster to get your credit report online
Would getting a copy of your credit report be safer to do online or in the mail?
I can’t imagine why anyone would prefer to use the mail system when they can access their credit report instantly online. I certainly hear complaints from a small percentage of people who cannot pass online authentication or have a conflict in their identifying information and must write to request their report, but most people get their report with no problems.
In addition to convenience, there is the added benefit of security.
When you request your credit report via the internet, your communication is from one machine to another. The information is secured and encrypted, and you must take several steps to verify your identity before a report will be delivered.
The most fundamental security issue is that ordering online removes people from the process. It sounds sad, but fraud only occurs when a person is able to access your identifying information. Requesting your report online takes people out of the process, which adds to your security.
Because transmission of the information is secure, encrypted, and instant, it is very difficult for a person to intercept the report, or to decode the information if they were able to capture it.
When you request a report by mail, you must send all of your sensitive personal identifying information with your request. That puts you at risk of the letter being lost or stolen from the mail system and being used to commit fraud.
It also takes days for the request to get to Experian so that it can be processed. Once processed your report must be mailed back to you, and may take several more days to get to you. So, it likely will be more than a week from the time you mail your request to the time you receive your report. If you need the information urgently, that may not be soon enough.
Experian takes the same added security precautions with reports that we send in the mail as we do with the reports delivered online, so the report itself offers little for identity thieves.
Experian omits your correct Social Security number from the credit report and provides only partial account numbers with it. You know your Social Security number and can recognize the accounts without the full account numbers. That leaves little for an identity thief other than your name and address, which are available through a telephone book.
Thanks for asking.
- The "Ask Experian" team