This morning I saw a commercial on television for a Free Credit Score from Equifax and it piqued my curiosity. I follow my credit report with the real no-charge (I hate to say free) credit report at annualcreditreport.com, but you don't get a credit score. So logging on to equifax.com/freescore, I looked for the catch.
It turns out the score is free, but you pay $12.95 for the other stuff you get for free: Credit monitoring (which you can get for free at annualcreditreport.com),. unlimited Equifax reports (you only get 1 per credit union at annualcreditreport.com) and "An explanation of what your score means and how it compares to national averages."
Annualcreditreport.com gives you three truly free credit reports per year. You can space these out every four months and you will be up to date on your credit report pretty frequently. If you're married, your spouse can check his/her report every four months also. Space these separately and every two months one of you can check their credit report. I check ours in odd numbered months (getting ready for March).
Last year we received a notice from some strange company that they were collecting an old debt. We felt we didn't owe it, so we requested more information. After waiting almost 30 days (the limit the company had to respond), we received a notice asking for more information from us: driver's license, address history, etc. I checked and none of it was required, so I sent a new letter asking for the origin of the debt.
This second letter included a request that the company clean it off my record and reported that I was following the law. I also explained that if I did not get sufficient response, I would send the next letter to the Attorney General.
Within 30 days (barely), I received a letter that the debt was cancelled, my report was cleaned. I've checked a couple times, and nothing unexpected is on my credit report.
So here's the moral to the story: You should check your credit report frequently, but ONLY use the annualcreditreport.com site. It's really free (doesn't have a catchy song and commercial) and is accurate. You can do this three times a year per person and stay up to date.