Suze Orman

Managing Debt

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FREE Credit Report


Thanks to a new federal regulation, the big three credit bureaus-Equifax, Experian and TransUnion-now must give each of us a free credit report every year. That's great news; by checking your credit report you can make sure no one has "stolen" your financial identity by opening up accounts in your name that you don't know about. And it's also a great way to make sure no inadvertent mistakes have found their way into your report; even the smallest of mistakes can send your FICO credit score tumbling. So you always want to make sure your credit report is spanking clean.

But as some consumers have already found out, free isn't necessarily free. The Federal Trade Commission recently gave a major slap on the hand to one of the credit bureaus which was slyly signing consumers up for a costly "credit monitoring" program when they requested their free credit report. If the consumer didn't cancel the monitoring service in the first 30 days, their credit card was billed $79.95 for the annual credit monitoring. And it sure was easy to get duped, since the title of the website pushing this deal was

Makes your skin crawl, right?

Let's make sure you never run into any confusion about how to get your credit report for free. Just follow a few easy steps:
  1. Don't show your card. Never ever give out your credit card number to get just your credit report. Anyone who offers you a free credit report but also wants your card info is bad news. But remember, a FICO credit score is different from a credit report. And you do indeed need to pay for your FICO score.
  2. Use the FTC website only. There are dozens of websites and ads claiming to offer free credit reports that then hoodwink you into signing up for costly services. Pay attention very carefully to what I am about to tell you: if you want to get your credit reports via the web, the only site you are to go to is Please be very very careful; there are other websites with similar names, but they are not to be trusted. The website is maintained by the FTC. You can also get your free credit report by calling 1-877-322-8228.
  3. Spread out your freebies over 12 months. First, always scour your credit card statements each month to make sure the only charges that show up are yours. That's the first line of defense against identity theft. Then go to and request ONE credit report. Four months later get your second report, and four months after that, request your third report. For example, you can get your Experian free credit report Sept 1, then on January 1 get your Equifax and then on May 1 ask for your TransUnion free credit report. That's all the credit monitoring you need: every four months you can check to see if anything suspicious has shown up on an account. If you find a problem, once you work with that credit bureau to get it corrected, the bureau must pass along the info to the other two bureaus.

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