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Get your free credit report
You're entitled to get your credit report free from the three credit reporting bureaus annually. You could contact Experian, TransUnion and Equifax and get your credit reports from them or go to the site www.annualcreditreport.com and get all three simultaneously. Some people choose to get their credit reports one at a time at four-month intervals, as this is sort of a free way to monitor their credit on a continuing basis. When you get your credit report or reports read them carefully to see if there have been any unauthorized purchases or accounts opened. If you find one or more of these, you should dispute them with the appropriate credit bureau and ultimately have them removed.
Ignore those sales pitches
If you watch any television or are on your computer for an hour or so a day you've probably seen sales pitches for those companies that charge a fee for credit reports, for your credit score or to monitor your credit. We have two words for this. Ignore them. As noted above, you can get your credit reports free and if you order your report from one of the credit bureau every four months you could be basically monitoring your history year around. There are also websites such as www.CreditKarma.com and www.CreditSesame.com where you can get your credit score free. It won't be your true FICO score, which is the one that most credit providers use, but it will be close enough to give you a good idea of how you stand – credit wise.
It couldn't hurt
Most experts suggest that you not sign up for a paid credit monitoring service as you can basically monitor your credit yourself. However, if you are told that a company you do business with has suffered a data breach it couldn't hurt to sign up for any free credit monitoring it offers.
If your identity is stolen
If you are hit by i dentity fraud or theft, the Federal Trade Commission suggests that you immediately notify one of the three credit reporting bureaus and ask for a 90-day credit alert. This alert will tell businesses that you need to be contacted before any new accounts can be opened in your name. You can renew that alert every three months or if you filed an identity theft report with the police you could keep it in effect for seven years. And if you are the victim of credit card fraud, you should contact whichever company issued the card to dispute the fraudulent charges and have any bogus accounts closed.
Keep good records
It's important to keep good records of any correspondence between you, your bank or credit bureau. Make sure you keep copies of all correspondence and reports. Whenever you send a letter to your bank, one of the credit bureaus or a credit card provider, be sure to use certified mail to get delivery receipts and when you make a phone call, keep good notes as to what was discussed and what, if anything was promised you.