In this age of identity misappropriation and fraud, it is essential for each individual to be at the very least conversant with their credit history. Ideally, one should be fully in control - not taking on more credit than one can afford, and optimizing value from the credit one has at hand.
The website for the free annual service is at AnnualCreditReport.com - not FreeCreditReport.com, a pay-site. AnnualCreditReport.com is a centralized service for consumers to request annual credit reports. It was created by the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The interface is quite friendly and allows you to get a "credit file disclosure" from each of the three credit reporting agencies once every twelve months. Performance of the services is terrible at present - mainly because of the humogonous load on them. I recommend 2 AM this Saturday as a good time to get through. Be prepared to provide key identifying information such as your SSN, address details and revolving or installment credit account information.
You can also request your report by telephone from 1-877-322-8228 or by mail by sending the request form(PDF) to
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
The almighty credit score is not free with this service and will cost you approximately $5 at each of the agencies.
Personally, I pay for a Credit protection service from one of my major credit cards that keeps an eye, hopefully not a glad-eye, on my credit history and provides me quarterly summaries and scores. You can get a quarterly report free from the AnnualCreditReport.com service by requesting one from each of the agencies, round-robin, every quarter.
If you detect any unusual entries, notify the agencies and the FTC. You can also contact the FBI Internet Fraud Complaint Center or your local police.