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Get a Free Copy of Your Credit Report... For Real

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — We've all heard the jingle and seen the commercials. Free Credit Report dot com is an advertising powerhouse. Obviously they scored a brilliant domain name. And their commercials are so good that random people upload them to youtube. For fun. One video has received over a half a million views and counting.

And you know, the ads are funny. They're entertaining and clever. Unfortunately the joke's on the people who sign up. And the executives are laughing all the way to the bank.

For starters, the credit report isn't even free. It costs a dollar. And, by paying that dollar you automatically enroll in their credit monitoring service, to the tune of $19.99 a month. That's called a subscription business model. That might be a good deal for a product you'd buy anyway (like US Weekly), but in this case you'd be better off using those dollars as wallpaper.

Credit monitoring is a lot like having a gym membership. We think we should join, so we do, but we don't really use it, or even need it. Yet we derive some sort of twisted satisfaction from paying for something that we think is good for us.

And yes, staying on top of your credit report and score is important. But doing so doesn't require a monthly fee. You can get everything you need for free if you know where to look.

So how do you check your credit report? And your credit score? For free?

It's simple. Go to annualcreditreport.com. You can get a no-strings attached free credit report from each of the three credit agencies every year. You can pull them all at once or rotate through them one at a time. I like to set a repeating calendar event for every four months so that I remember to regularly review my credit report.

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