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Is your credit report accurate? Has someone been trying to use your good name to acquire credit? Do you even know? Don't wait until you start getting demands for payment for things you never bought; get your personal credit report and validate the information.

Under Federal law, you have the right to receive free copies of your credit reports from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax once every 12 months. But you're not limited to just an annual report. You can obtain them at will, get assistance with understanding the report, support for repairing your credit, even special monitoring and fraud alerts.

There's no reason why you can't start reviewing your credit as soon as right now. Your credit report can be requested and reviewed online immediately (upon authentication of identity). Not sure about the security of your internet connection? Request your report via telephone or mail and you'll typically receive it within 7-15 days.

To request your credit report, you'll need to be prepared with some basic information such as your name, address, Social Security number and date of birth. You'll also need any prior addresses from the past few years and disclose something that only you know (like the amount of a given payment, for example) as a security measure.

Once your credit report is in hand, review it thoroughly. Specifically check:
Accounts: If you do not recognize an account and the account is newly opened, someone may have obtained a line of credit using your identity.
Inquiries: Review all the inquiries on your credit report in. If you do not recognize the credit grantor accessing your report, that may be an indication of fraudulent activity.
Addresses: Review the addresses that appear on your credit report. If you discover one where you have not lived, it may be an indication that the address was used on a fraudulent application for credit.

Should you find something that you question or disagree with, contact the creditor immediately and begin the process of correcting your credit report and protecting your good name.