This 2003 amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission has information here and here.
Beginning March 1, 2005, free reports will be available to consumers in the Midwestern states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. You can order your free annual credit report online at www.annualcreditreport.com, by calling 877-322-8228, or by completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mailing it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center recommends that you engage in a free form of credit monitoring by requesting one of your three free reports every four months. By staggering your requests, you can check for errors regularly and identify potential problems in your credit report before you lose out on a loan or home purchase. See EPIC's Top Ten Consumer Privacy Resolutions.
UPDATE 3/5/05: A World Privacy Forum report revealed a number of problems with the free credit report website. See our summary or get the full report: CALL DON'T CLICK: Why it's smarter to order federally mandated free credit reports via telephone, not the Internet.