Free credit reports weren't available when today's empty nesters and retirees started managing their finances, says Ulzheimer. For that reason, many may not be used to asking for them, he says.
The quick summary: You have three different credit reports, one each from each of the three credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Under federal law, you're entitled to a free copy of each report every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Many credit gurus recommend requesting one of the three reports every four months. "They generally get all get the same information from lenders," says Magnuson. That way, you're staying current with your history and paying nothing for the privilege.
Retirees generally have a little more time on their hands, says Magnuson. And the credit report-identity theft issue "takes on more importance because every dollar counts," he says.
Are you going to be making a big purchase where a good credit score could save you money in interest? Pull your credit reports well in advance. In case there are any errors on the report, Paperno says, you want to "give yourself some time because they're not going to be fixed immediately."