How to get credit reports:

On the Internet: annualcreditreport.com

Be careful how you reach the Web site. If you misspell it, there are a number of impostor Web sites that have been set up to take advantage of typos or misspellings. These sites may charge you a fee for your report, or worse, use your personal information to steal your identity. For safety, consider gaining access to the correct Web site by linking to it through www.ftc.gov.

Once online, be prepared to readily and correctly answer some personal information, such as the name of your mortgage company or the amount of the most recent payment, to verify your identity and be able to gain access to your report online.

By phone: Call 877-322-8228

By mail: Annual Credit Report Request Service

P.O. Box 105281

Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

Reports are issued instantly if requested online; they are mailed within 15 days of a telephone or written request.

Once you have a report, you should carefully review:

Personal information: Make sure your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, previous address, employer and phone number are accurate.

Credit summary: Review your accounts to see if they are all yours and accurately reflect your payment history and amount of credit available to you.

Public records: Check court judgments or liens recorded against you.

Inquiries: Monitor companies that may have accessed your credit report. Check for requests from companies with which you do no business; those may suggest suspicious activity from an identity thief trying to use your information to gain credit.

If any of the information is incorrect, dispute it by carefully following the procedures outlined by the credit bureau to correct any item. If you are disputing a loan or late payment history from a lender, credit card company or retailer, notify that company of the problem as well.

The credit bureau has 30 days after receiving your complaint to confirm any disputed item or correct it.