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Reporting In

Federal law allows you to check your credit reports for free every year. Here's how to access them--and protect your credit rating.

This story appears in the September 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Starting September 1, every U.S. citizen has the right to a freeannual report from each of the three major credit bureaus-Equifax,Experian and TransUnion. People in some parts of the country havehad that ability for a while, either because of state laws or thefact that the new federal rule was phased in, applying to differentplaces at different times. Western states were given the rightfirst, followed by the Midwest, the South and, as of September, theNortheast and Mid-Atlantic.

With identity theft rising quickly nationwide, it's a goodidea to take advantage of the new system. Order your credit reportsevery year, check them, and if you see any problems, put what'scalled a "fraud alert" on them. That tells lenders andcreditors that you may have been a victim of identity theft andforces them to check with you personally before opening newaccounts.

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