Reader Question: I’ve seen commercials for Experian. Does it work? Will it protect my credit?

Answer: Let’s be clear from the beginning, Experian does not protect your credit from identity thieves. In fact, most credit report monitoring services do not. While they can monitor your credit reports for suspicious activity, they can’t actually protect you against identity theft. So what can they do?

How Does Experian Work?

Experian is one of the three companies that provides credit reports lenders will look at when deciding on your credit worthiness. The other two are TransUnion and Equifax. Each credit report company determines their credit scores differently and some lenders only report to certain credit report companies. So a credit card that is reported to TransUnion may not report to Experian. That also means that each credit report company will give you varying credit scores, although they rarely are vastly different.

Can Experian Protect Your Identity?

So how does Experian help you protect against identity theft? It doesn’t, really. The most it can do is monitor your credit report and alert you when a suspicious account is opened in your name, which is what they do. After you are alerted, it is up to you to alert the proper authorities and credit lenders to report the identity theft. So while they can alert you to suspicious activity, they can’t do anything to actually protect you from identity theft.

Most importantly, Experian can only alert you to suspicious activity on your Experian credit report. If someone opens an account that only reports to TransUnion and/or Equifax, you will be unaware that it is open. However, there are many credit report monitoring companies that do monitor all three credit reports. Here’s a good list of the best companies that do that.