Checking your credit report for suspicious activity is essential to combat identity theft. But if you go to the wrong site, your personal information could end up in the wrong hands. Just one Web site, www.annualcreditreport.com, provides free yearly credit reports as part of a federally required program.
To get the reports, you must enter sensitive information, including your Social Security number and birth date. And that’s why there are so many phishing sites with similar URLs. Some other sites tout free credit reports, but they aren’t part of the federal program and may charge you for credit monitoring after a trial membership.
Be sure to enter the URL directly into your Web browser’s address bar and check that you typed the address correctly. If you transpose, add or omit any letters, you could end up on a knockoff page. Avoid using a search engine, such as Google, to look up the site -- you could choose an incorrect page from the list of results.
When you arrive on the home page, you’ll see the AnnualCreditReport.com logo at the top, plus a statement that it’s the only source of free credit reports authorized by federal law. At the lower right, look for the phrase “Brought to you by” followed by the logos of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
You can get all three of your reports at once. Or, if you’d rather keep tabs on your credit throughout the year, request one report every four months. AnnualCreditReport.com does not provide free credit scores, although you may be able to purchase a score when you get your free report. For more on free credit reports, go to the Federal Trade Commission's site.