Last time, we talked about resolving to make stronger passwords in the new year. This might also be a good time to resolve to check your credit report more regularly.

You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report (though not your credit score) every 12 months. Follow the instructions at to request your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. (Stay away from the scam site that runs the goofy adds and has “free” in the domain name. They are anything but free.)

When reviewing the credit reports, look for:

  • adverse actions on your accounts that might indicate that you have been a victim of identity theft
  • accounts that have been opened in your name without your knowledge. Even if the identity thief is making the payments regularly, the account could still be in use for illegal activities.

If you find a discrepancy, follow the specific instructions on the website to dispute any incorrect information.

Some other suggestions:

  • Don’t forget to check the credit reports of your immediate family members, especially minor children and dependent elders. Both of those groups are at elevated risk of identity theft.
  • Remember that you are also eligible for a report every 12 months from any of the specialty agencies which have information about you.
  • If you want more frequent feedback on your credit history, consider asking for your free copy from only one of the major credit reporting agencies at a time. Space the requests for the other two agencies out every four months. For example, you could ask for your free copy from Experian in March, your free copy from TransUnion in July and your free copy from Equifax in November. Once you start, you will have to keep the same rotating pattern. Schedule the requests on your calendar.

Note: Several people have asked my opinion of credit monitoring services. I do not consider them worth the money if you are taking the regular precaution of checking bank and credit card statements and are reviewing your credit report at least annually. They might be useful if you are a recent victim of identity theft or are in some other high-risk category but they’re overkill for most of us.

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