As a small business owner, you know the importance of having good credit and staying on top of your credit score, but by doing so, a question may pop up in your mind: is requesting an annual credit report safe?
In the United States, you are entitled to a free credit report every year. Getting your annual credit report is extremely important. The information that you’ll find on the credit report is much more detailed than just your score. It will have a full breakdown of all your accounts and why your credit score is what it is. Pulling your annual credit report is vital, as you can potentially spot errors and even detect any fraudulent activity that may have occurred on your accounts.
To obtain your annual credit report, though, you have to provide very sensitive personal information, such as your Social Security Number. That’s why some people may question if requesting an annual credit report is safe.
Similar to how you conduct personal and professional business online in other ways today, it is important to be safe when providing your information over the internet. If you’re not careful, you could end up doing more harm than good.
How Do I Request My Credit Report?
There are three main bureau agencies that handle credit reports: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. While you can go to any of their websites to obtain your free credit report, doing so will only re-direct you to another site.
The most common way most consumers receive their free annual credit report is through a website called AnnualCreditReport.com. This site was created in 2003 by the three bureaus, who worked together to give people a simple and easy way to get their annual credit report. This happened following the 2003 passing of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), which gave every person in the US the right to obtain an annual free credit report.
When you seek to obtain your free credit report online, know that you will have to provide your legal name, your Social Security Number, your current address and your previous address if you’ve lived at your current address for less than two years.
Is Requesting My Free Annual Credit Report Safe?
As with anything online nowadays, there is always a concern with bad actors. You may be questioning whether requesting your annual credit report is safe based on the fact that you have to enter all this sensitive personal information.
This is especially pertinent considering Equifax itself was breached in 2017. In that case, the personal and financial information of approximately 148 million people in US were obtained by hackers. Equifax came to a settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission after the hack and agreed to spend up to $425 million to help people affected by the data breach.
Following the breach –and other high-profile ones at other companies– Equifax and the other credit bureaus ramped up their online security.
AnnualCreditReport.com, for example, uses best-in-class SSL encryption that will keep all your data and information safe from bad actors.
This is such an important topic today, as hackers can cause a lot of damage to you if your personal information is stolen. With your Social Security Number, hackers can open new financial accounts in your name, such as taking out a car loan or opening a credit card. They can rack up charges and not pay for them, which will ultimately hurt your credit score greatly.
Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to completely insulate yourself from the threats of online hacking–that is unless you stay off the internet entirely. For most of us, that is just not realistic.
So how can you put yourself in the best position possible? It’s rather simple, actually. Make sure that you only request your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Doing so will make it likely that requesting your annual credit report will be safe. Also, we recommend you to follow the simple tips and guidelines below.
How to Stay Safe and Spot Credit Report Scams
Credit bureaus are a prime target for hackers because your annual credit report contains the most sensitive information about you. That’s why there are so many scammers out there targeting people who are requesting their free annual credit report.
There are a few simple ways you can spot credit report scams before you get yourself into trouble.
1. Only request your annual credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com
To ensure you are at the right site, type that URL into the address bar of a web browser. Once you’re there, double-check that you entered the domain name exactly right. Having even one character wrong –such as switching the “a” and “u” in Annual– may bring you to a phishing site that looks just like the real thing.
2. Don’t click any links that will take you to the site
If you received an email promotion for your free annual credit report, don’t open any attachments.
3. Don’t provide your credit card information
If you chose to get your free annual credit report from a different site, you can make sure they are legitimate and safe by not providing your credit card information. Sites that offer free credit reports such as Credit Karma don’t require you to enter credit card information to obtain it.
4. Ensure that the site you are obtaining your free annual credit report from is secure
You can do this by looking at the URL once you’re there. A secure site will start with either “https” or “shttp.” If it doesn’t, then you know the site isn’t secure.
5. Make sure that you have a password on your mobile device and your computer
Once you request your free annual credit report, the document will have all your sensitive information on it. If you store that report on your computer or your phone, you’ll want to make sure that you protect it. This is especially important for mobile devices, as bad actors can take advantage of you if you lose your phone and it’s not password protected, for example.
Requesting your annual credit report can be safe. While there are unfortunately a variety of instances where major companies were hacked and personal information was breached –including Equifax– you should still rest easy when you request your free annual credit report.
You can put yourself in the best position possible when it comes to online security by only requesting your free annual credit report from legitimate sites and by navigating to them directly–not clicking on any links to get there.
Staying on top of credit is very important for everyone, but especially so for small business owners like you.
Keep reading: How to Read Your Credit Report.
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