BOSTON (CBS) – I’ll bet every time I have suggested that you get copies of your free credit reports you have made a mental note to check yours. It’s on that To Do List that sits in the cloud or buried in the file!

You can easily get your free report by logging onto annualcreditreport.com. This central site allows you to request your credit report once every 12 months from each of the large credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

A word of caution. There are many look-alike websites out there. Use only annualcreditreport.com. The law now requires commercial websites that say they offer free credit reports to include a box letting you know you can also get a free credit report at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

It is important to be checking your credit report and credit scores at least annually. And they will be different from each of the reporting agencies for they have access to different data about you.

You can get your credit report for free but you will need to pay for a copy of your credit scores. Usually the credit reporting companies will offer you your credit score when you are getting your free credit report.

Reviewing your credit report is your first line of defense against identity theft. Are there any unauthorized cards or loans on your history? A credit card you don’t recognize? Different address than your home address? These may be an indication that someone else is using your social security number.

Potential employers, landlords, phone companies, lenders, utility companies and insurance companies are requesting a look at your report. So you want to be sure it’s up to date and correct.

If you find an error it is your responsibility to fix it. First try the online options to see if that resolves it, follow up with snail mail and lots of phone calls. A simple error can be very costly for you.

One more thing: You can also call 877-322-8228 or try snail mail to get your credit report. You will need to get on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website and download a form: Annual Credit Report Request and mail it in to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. I know they make you jump through hoops. The easiest way to get your credit report is to do it online. You will need to give them your social security number.

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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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