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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.

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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 bureaus-,Experian and TransUnion. People in some parts of the country havehad that ability for a while, either because of 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 , the South and, as of September, theNortheast and Mid-Atlantic.

With 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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