How do I get a free credit report?

Q: I know from the news that we can get free credit reports, but every time I click on ads for free credit reports I see online, they ask for a credit card. Is that a legitimate request? If the credit report is free, why do they need a credit card?

A: You don't need to hand over a credit card number to get a free credit report! The official site for getting the free annual reports we're entitled to under the law is

Again, you do NOT need to give your credit-card number for this. If you're asked for one, then it's an outfit that probably wants to sign you up for credit-monitoring service. Not worth it.

There are three credit bureaus, each of which will provide you with a free report every year through this central website. If you request one report from a different bureau every four months, you can monitor your credit file yourself.