Experian IdentityWorks Review
Full-service ID theft protection and credit monitoring backed by Experian
If you’re at all familiar with finance, you’ll probably recognize Experian as one of the three major credit reporting bureaus in the United States, but that’s just the beginning. Experian also offers identity monitoring services, and, the best part? We could try it out for free for 30 days. That’s a godsend, as identity theft is incredibly common; in 2016, the last time the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics did a survey, they found that one in 10 people ages 16 or older had fallen victim to identity theft in the past year, about 17.7 million people in total.1 Those odds aren’t great, so we were more than ready to test Experian out and see what they had to offer.
What Does Experian Give You? Plus How Much It Costs
After we signed up for our free trial, we spent a bit of time on the Experian website figuring out exactly what was included in our trial. It turned out, quite a lot.
Right off the bat, we have to say that Experian, like any other identity monitoring service, can’t fully protect your identity from being stolen. Rather, they alerted us when they found our credentials where they’re not supposed to be or when they detected warning signs, like someone taking $5,000 at once from our checking account. But even if our identities were stolen, that identity theft insurance would kick in, with either a $500,000 or million-dollar maximum reimbursement depending on the subscription we chose. We’d also have a fraud resolution specialist to help us pick up the pieces.
But ideally, Experian would actually prevent our identities from being stolen. They did this by monitoring:
- Dark web: The dark web, which might be 500 times larger than the normal web,2 is an area of the Internet where all of the users are anonymized, so it’s often where stolen credentials can be found. Experian scanned the dark web for us to ensure that we were safe.
- Social Security number: We only get one of these in our lifetimes, so it’s important that Experian lets us know if any other addresses or aliases are paired with our Social Security numbers.
- Address changes: As unlikely as this is, if someone did a “change of address” USPS form using our information, Experian would give us the heads up.
- Financial accounts: If anyone tries to open new bank accounts or control our actual bank account using our data, we’d be alerted.
- Payday and non-credit loans: Trying to get cash on the quick using our names? Not so fast. Experian can detect these attempts so that we’re the only people using our names to apply for non-credit loans.
- Court records: Experian scans the court system to see if any crimes were reported in our names.
- Sex offender registries: Although Experian alerted us when a sex offender moved into our neighborhood, they didn’t actually check to make sure our name wasn’t on it, which was a bit disappointing.
- File-sharing and social networks: Experian made sure we weren’t being abused on both social media as well as file-sharing networks.
We also got what Experian calls “lost wallet assistance,” meaning that all of the information in our wallets, like our driver’s license numbers, credit and debit card information, and insurance ID numbers were stored in a secure portal. If we ever end up losing our wallets, the restoration specialists would have helped us cancel the cards, replace them, what have you. Although we clearly could do this ourselves, it sounds nice to have a helping hand in what we assume would be a super-stressful time.
Being a credit bureau, of course, Experian also gave us some good information about our FICO and credit scores. We got credit reports and scores from all three bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion in addition to Experian, on the IdentityWorks Premium plan. We were also alerted of:
- Large changes to our financial accounts’ balances
- Credit being used
- Positive activity
- Dormant accounts
- FICO scores, which included our homes, bank cards, and cars.
FICO is a type of credit score used most frequently by lenders for over 25 years,3 if you didn’t already know. A three-digit number, it can affect the size, length, and interest rates of your loans. Made by the Fair Isaac Corporation, over 90% of the most commonly used lenders use FICO scores when making loan decisions. A good score is 670 or above, the higher the better. But don’t worry; if your score isn’t at this level, you can improve it over time, which is why it’s important to monitor it regularly. Scores over 800 or higher are considered exceptional.
And that’s everything that Identity Watch gave us, but how much did it set us back in the bank?
Experian Subscription Breakdown
|Feature||Category||IdentityWorks Plus||IdentityWorks Premium|
|Identity Theft Insurance Maximum Reimbursement||Coverage||$500,000||$1,000,000|
|U.S Based Fraud Resolution Specialist||Coverage||✓||✓|
|Lost Wallet Assistance||Identity Theft Monitoring and Protection||✓||✓|
|Dark Web Surveillance||Identity Theft Monitoring and Protection||✓||✓|
|Identity Theft Monitoring and Alerts||Identity Theft Monitoring and Protection||✓||✓|
|Social Security Number Monitoring||Identity Theft Monitoring and Protection||✓||✓|
|Address Change Verificiation||Identity Theft Monitoring and Protection||✓||✓|
|Financial Account Activity||Identity Theft Monitoring and Protection||x||✓|
|Identity Validation Alerts||Identity Theft Monitoring and Protection||x||✓|
|Payday Loan Monitoring||Identity Theft Monitoring and Protection||x||✓|
|Court Records||Identity Theft Monitoring and Protection||x||✓|
|Sex Offender Registry||Identity Theft Monitoring and Protection||x||✓|
|File-Sharing Network Monitoring||Identity Theft Monitoring and Protection||x||✓|
|Social Network Monitoring||Identity Theft Monitoring and Protection||x||✓|
|Lock and Unlock Experian Credit File||Experian CreditLock||✓||✓|
|Real-time Alerts on Attempted Credit Inquiries||Experian CreditLock||✓||✓|
|Credit Bureaus Monitored||Credit Monitoring and Alerts||Experian||Experian, Equifax, TransUnion|
|New Credit Inquiries||Credit Monitoring and Alerts||✓||✓|
|New Accounts||Credit Monitoring and Alerts||✓||✓|
|Large Account Balance Changes||Credit Monitoring and Alerts||✓||✓|
|Credit Utilization||Credit Monitoring and Alerts||✓||✓|
|Positive Activity||Credit Monitoring and Alerts||✓||✓|
|Dormant Accounts||Credit Monitoring and Alerts||✓||✓|
|FICO Score Alerts||Credit Monitoring and Alerts||✓||✓|
|Frequency of FICO Scores from 3 Credit Bureaus||Credit Scores||x||Quarterly|
|Frequency of FICO Scores based on Experian Data||Credit Scores||Daily||Daily|
|Score Tracking||Credit Scores||✓||✓|
|FICO Score Simulator||Credit Scores||✓||✓|
|Additional FICO scores (auto, home and bank card)||Credit Scores||✓||✓|
|Monthly Price for 1 Adult||Pricing||$9.99||$19.99|
|Yearly Price for 1 Adult||Pricing||$99.99||$199.99|
|Yearly Savings for 1 Adult||Pricing||$19.89||$39.89|
|Free Trial Length||Pricing||30||30|
|Monthly Price for 1 Adult and up to 10 Children||Pricing||$14.99||$24.99|
|Yearly Price for 1 Adult and up to 10 Children||Pricing||$149.99||$249.99|
|Yearly Savings for 1 Adult and up to 10 Children||Pricing||$29.89||$49.89|
|Free Trial Length||Pricing||0||0|
|Monthly Price for 2 Adults and up to 10 Children||Pricing||$19.99||$29.99|
|Yearly Price for 2 Adults and up to 10 Children||Pricing||$199.99||$299.99|
|Yearly Savings for 2 Adults and up to 10 Children||Pricing||$39.89||$59.89|
|Free Trial Length||Pricing||0||0|
After the 30-day free trial, we began paying for the Premium package, which cost us $19.99 a month. Of course, we could’ve saved some money and signed up for a year, but that’s just not our style. But it’s a good option for those looking to save money. And while we don’t have kids, there are options that include up to two adults and ten children, which should support most families.
Hot Tip: For savings of up to $59.89, pay for a whole year at once rather than choosing the monthly option.
One of the biggest differences between the two subscription options is the identity theft insurance maximum reimbursement. With the Plus plan, the maximum is $500,000, while the Premium Plan doubles to a million dollars, which is standard across the industry. The Premium plan also monitors more areas than the Plus plan, including:
- Financial account activity
- Identity validation alerts
- Payday loan monitoring
- Court records
- Sex offender registry
- File-sharing and social network monitoring.
The Premium plan monitors credit from all three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion), while the Plus plan only monitors credit from Experian. Plus, as Premium members, we received quarterly FICO score updates, and as we said, these are used by 90% of top lenders, making them incredibly important as well. Especially if we’re looking to invest in a mortgage or buy a car, we’ll want to know this score as well.
We think the Premium plan is definitely worth the extra $10 a month or $100 a year, but both plans provide excellent and comprehensive identity monitoring coverage. For one adult, a 30-day free trial is available, so we recommend signing up for Premium to try out all the features available.
Our User Experience with Experian
First, we created accounts on the Experian website, entering our names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers. Everything was completely free, for the first 30 days at least, so we didn’t need to enter any bank account or card information. Next, they asked for our Social Security numbers, birthdays, and phone number to verify our identities.
FYI: Unlike most companies, Experian didn’t make us even enter a credit card in order to access their free trial, so it’s truly risk-free.
To further confirm our identities, we answered a few authentication quests that only took a few seconds. Finally, we created security questions, created a four-digit pin, and then clicked to view our credit. We were brought to a dashboard that had our credit score front and center plus links for a dark web scan, more detailed credit report, and more.
Naturally, we clicked on the dark web scan and got started.
When we got the report, we saw that our phone number was compromised. Experian gave us another phone number to call to see if our identities were compromised, which was helpful.
From there, we had the chance to enter in more information for Experian to monitor, like our driver license numbers, passport numbers, medical ID numbers, bank account, and credit card information, retail cards, and social networks. And that was it! Overall the process was really easy, and if we ever wanted to upgrade or downgrade our account, we could do that too. The page even had links to download their mobile apps so we can get updates on the go, which leads us to our next point…
The Experian App
For identity monitoring on the fly, we downloaded the Experian app onto our iPhones, although there’s also an Android version available with a 4.7 on the app store. The app itself was pretty minimal in terms of capabilities, although it worked well; while we could check our credit scores and reports and get alerts, we couldn’t see reports specific to identity monitoring, just credit. It seems like this app is definitely more focused on Experian’s specialty than it is IdentityWatch, which is a bit of a side hustle for them. Still, the app worked well and made it easy to check out our credit scores and see if our credentials were at risk via mobile notifications.
Customer Support with Experian
Help us, somebody help us! When we needed help using IdentityWatch, our options were pretty much limited to Experian’s online help center, which couldn’t provide us with much info on the social network monitoring that was part of our subscription. While we were able to ask a question, there wasn’t a direct email, phone number, or live chat feature available, which was a bit disappointing. Basically, we were on our own when it came to customer support, a definite drawback of Experian.
Is My Information Secure?
There’s no doubt that we fed Experian more information than we do our diaries, so it’s super important that that information stays protected. That’s why we added multi-factor authentication to our Experian account. In English? That means that we use fingerprint ID on our iPhones every time we log on, ensuring that we’re the only ones accessing our accounts.
There’s no easy way to say this: Experian keeps a ton of customer data, way more than is necessary to run their identity monitoring service. It started off innocent enough, with standard things like:
- Phone number
- Children’s names, Social Security numbers and birthdays, if any
- Debit or credit card information
- Billing address
- Answers to security questions
- Correspondence with the company.
Then, as we kept reading, things got a bit dicier, with Experian saving users’:
- IP address
- Time and pages visited
- Computer device type
- Operating system version
- Browser type and version
- Wireless carrier
- Wi-Fi status
- Crash logs
- Pixel tags…
…and many other device identifiers.
On top of that, Experian can share the data with third parties for advertising purposes, although that information would be aggregated and anonymized and users can opt-out if they want to. Still, we think it’s safe to say that Experian isn’t the best identity monitoring service for privacy. However, the good news is that the company hasn’t had any data breaches in recent memory, unlike the credit-monitoring bureau Equifax, which exposed 147 million people’s personal information.5 So unless privacy is a huge priority, Experian is still a trustworthy company in general.
Experian: Worthwhile Identity Monitoring?
While Experian clearly has its drawbacks, we still think it’s a very worthwhile identity monitoring service.
Go with Experian if you’d like…
- Free, 30-day trials for individual adults
- Daily credit report and scores
- Highly-rated apps for iOS and Android
But avoid if you don’t want…
- United States-based company
- Logging of information like IP addresses, operating system version, wireless carrier and more
- Scarce customer support options
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2019). Victims of Identity Theft, 2016.
CNBC. (2018). The ‘deep web’ may be 500 times bigger than the normal web. Its uses go well beyond buying drugs. cnbc.com/2018/09/06/beyond-the-valley-understanding-the-mysteries-of-the-dark-web.html
MyFico. (2020). Your FICO Score, from FICO. myfico.com/
Federal Trade Commission. (2020). Equifax Data Breach Settlement.