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Get your credit report every four months — for free

Having a current copy of your credit record is vital to protect yourself from credit errors and identity theft. And, thanks to Congress, getting a copy is extremely easy. By law, everyone is allowed to download an annual copy of their report. But be warned. The website advertised on TV, freecreditreport.com, is not the right place to go. It is a scam run by Experian to get people to sign up for an unnecessary yearly service. The correct website is annualcreditreport.com.

Once there, you can retrieve your credit report from all three credit reporting companies — Experian, Transunion and Equifax. Each company allows you to get your report, once a year. So how do you get your report more often?

Easy.

Don’t order a report from all three at the same time. Get the report from only one company. Make a note on your calendar to check the report from the same company at the same time next year.

In four months, visit the website again and order a report from the second company. Four months after that, request a report from the third company.

Getting a credit report more often means you will shorten the time an identity thief can use your good name without you noticing. It also helps spot errors more quickly and closer to when an error is made.