BOSTON (CBS) – Credit reports are important. They are often the way a creditor, a potential employer, a landlord or an insurance company will judge you. Yet more than half of all consumers have not checked their credit report.

The three large reporting companies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, will provide you with an annual free copy of your credit report, but you must ask for it. And only about half of all consumers ever follow through with this.

You can get your free report by logging on to annualcreditreport.com. This central site allows you to request a free credit report, once every 12 months, from each of the large credit reporting companies.

You can also do it by snail mail but you’ll need to get online at the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website and download the form. You want the Annual Credit Report Request.

It is important to be checking your credit report at least annually because incorrect information can screw up your credit score, mess with your ability to get a loan, and the best reason to review your credit report is Identity Theft.

If someone is using your name and Social Security number it will probably show up on your credit report as an account you never heard of. Then it’s your responsibility to follow thru.

I would recommend spreading out your free credit reports by requesting just one every 4 months.

Your credit history will be slightly different from each of the reporting agencies for they have access to different data about you. Very few of your creditors report to all three companies. So you do need to check all three for they don’t share their information.

If you have kids check their credit report. Identity theft doesn’t just happen to grownups! Anyone with a social security number is vulnerable. And there have been many cases where an estranged parent steals their kid’s Social Security number and uses it because their credit report is so bad.

Over 50% of credit reports do have errors. If you find errors on your report fix them. Many of those errors are easily repaired by contacting the reporting agencies and giving them the correct information.

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You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

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