updated September 10, 2017
The demand for authentication, for you to prove it’s really you, may make it impossible to get your credit report online immediately, especially after the Equifax breach.
Your free credit report should be available to you online three times a year from one of the three credit reporting companies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. But many people find that the companies turn down their requests when they ask for reports online. They routinely turn you down if a security alert gets triggered.
In general, we wrote this post after Regina Harper contacted us to complain that TransUnion’s online authentication process frustrated her attempts to file a complaint, dispute an error or put a freeze on her account. She said, “I was finally told that it was because I failed authentication. I don’t believe it. Why?”
Why Online Credit Report Authentication?
We reached out to TransUnion to get an answer for Regina and everyone else who encounters the same kind of problem. David Blumberg of TransUnion told ConsumerMojo.com that you should prepare for questions before you sit down to make an online credit report request.
Blumberg said, “When a consumer plans to obtain their credit report online, they should be prepared for authentication questions about their financial history, balances, etc. We encourage consumers to have financial statements and bills available for easy reference in order to be able to answer the authentication questions correctly.”
TransUnion and the two other private companies, often referred to as credit bureaus, operate the same way. So you can take the response and apply it across the board.
TransUnion won’t let you skip the authentication process because they say it helps prevent fraud. Blumberg explained, “Authentication is an important process to protect the privacy of sensitive consumer information when a request is made by a consumer to view his credit report online. TransUnion strives to strike the balance between convenient online access to your own individual information while protecting it from access by potential fraudsters.”
So what do you do when you “fail authentication” during an online request? Blumberg suggests, “If a consumer is unable to authenticate online, they can always request their report via mail or via our toll free phone number.”
Experian: 1-888 397-3742
This answer may frustrate some and you may have serious complaints about the way the credit bureaus operate. If you do, you can take some comfort in the fact that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to hear your complaints and has taken action against the reporting companies.
Congress, at President Obama’s request, created the CFPB in 2010 as a financial watchdog for consumers and during the past four years the agency has advocated for consumers who have trouble with crediting reporting companies.
You can file a complaint with the CFPB here.
Worried about the Equifax breach read this: What Should I Do About Equifax Data Hack?