We've all seen the ads --
But guess what? FreeCreditReport.com ISN'T FREE! It's a ploy to get you to enroll in their credit monitoring service, which costs $16.99 a month after a 7-day trial. Boo.
To get an actual, real, absolutely free credit report, use AnnualCreditReport.com. Thanks to federal law, the big three credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - are required to give you a free credit report every 12 months. And AnnualCreditReport.com is the only place to get them.
You'll give the site personal information to get your reports, but never any money. They'll walk you through getting your report from each of the three credit bureaus and ask you questions to confirm your identity along the way - it's like taking a quiz on your life.
FTC's tips on how to dispute credit errors.
But you don't have to take my word for it - visit the Federal Trade Commission's page on free credit reports or check out Suze Orman's article "How to Get a Free Credit Report that is Truly, 100 Percent Free."
(Bonus round: As you're getting your free credit reports, each credit bureau will offer you a chance to see your FICO credit score for a small fee - usually around $8-$9. I recommend getting at least one, especially if you've never seen your FICO score. It's good to know where you stand, and you won't find a cheaper opportunity to see your score. More on FICO scores in next week's Money Monday!)