Some 'free' credit reports aren't free
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Some 'free' credit reports aren't free

Companies offering free credit reports are pretty savvy with their marketing, using humor and catchy songs to attract consumers into using their services. The problem is that the "free" credit report offered by these companies is often just bait to get you to buy a subscription credit monitoring service. Fortunately, the Credit Card Act of 2009 requires credit reporting companies to disclose what they're really up to - albeit in fine print or fast-paced dialogue.
 
You really can get one free credit report per year from each of the major credit reporting bureaus - Equifax, Experian and Trans-Union. You can request all three from annualcreditreport.com, the only free credit report source authorized by federal law. Companies must post a disclosure notice about the government resource on any web page that claims to offer other "free" credit reports.
 
Even if you don't need to borrow money, you should make the most of the government's offer for free annual credit reports. Your credit score impacts not only your ability to get a loan for a home or car, but also your ability to purchase insurance or services like a cell phone at a reasonable price. You may also need access to quick credit for an emergency, disaster or catastrophic illness.
 
Identity thieves can do considerable damage to your credit rating in a short amount of time. Closely review and monitor your credit card and bank accounts, including any mail they send you, and consider signing up for text or email alerts. Request your credit report each year on your birthday so you never forget your last inquiry date. By reviewing your credit report annually, you can catch identity thieves early and help minimize the damage to your finances, including your credit score.
 
If you'd like more information about credit reports or identity theft, please Armstrong Advisory.