First, pull your credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies -- Experian, TransUnion and Equifax -- at AnnualCreditReport.com for free. Every consumer is entitled to a free report from each bureau every 12 months under federal law.
Check each report carefully for any errors. In a 2004 study by the consumer advocate U.S. Public Interest Research Group, almost 4 in 5 credit reports contained some kind of mistake. If you find a mistake or incomplete or outdated information, contact the agency by phone, in writing or online to file a dispute. The dispute must be based on a report that is no older than 90 days. The agency then will contact the creditor to investigate. You should get results from the investigation within 45 days.
If you want to keep an eye on your report more frequently than once a year, consider checking your free credit report on a rotating basis. Pull your Experian report in January, then get your Equifax report in May and then request your TransUnion report in September.
-- Janna Herron