When you are ready to get that free credit report (you should check your report at least once a year), you should be aware that there is only one officially approved Web site: www.annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three main credit bureaus once a year (read my post on how to space them out to get a free credit report three times a year here).
Is your free credit report really free?
There are plenty of ads on TV, and plenty of click-through links and hyper-text ads proclaiming a free credit report. But you should be aware that these Web sites are not officially authorized by the three major credit bureaus, nor are they authorized by the federal government. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission warns against such Web sites. Why? Because many of them are not actually free.
Oh, the credit report offered is technically a free credit report. But you may be signing up for a service that requires a fee when you get your credit report. Or you may be authorizing a disputation service that charges you to challenge negative items on your credit report each time they pop up. The truth is, you can take care of these yourself-for free.
Keeping an eye on your credit report
You do need to keep an eye on you credit report, and the best way to do it is the approved way. Make sure you are going to the right address (there are sites set up with names similar to the official site, hoping to catch those who commit typos). Also, be aware that even though your credit report is free at this Web site, your credit score is not. You will have to pay between $5.95 and $14.95 to have a look at your credit score.