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Some things really do come for free, including your credit report.

I swear, I'm not making this up. I've done it myself and all it cost me was a stamp.

I have written recently about the importance of regularly checking your credit report for signs of fraud. Credit reports are available free of charge from two major Canadian credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax.

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Each time I've put "free" and "credit report" in the same sentence, I've been flooded with calls and e-mails from frustrated readers who've been unable to navigate past the ads for the paid reports that the credit bureau websites offer. These more detailed reports will show you your credit score, but they are not free. (TransUnion charges $9.99.) Likewise, if you want to see your report instantly, you can order it online, but even without the score, there's a price for the convenience. (At Equifax, it's $15.50, or $23.95 with your score included.)

While there's nothing wrong with paying to see your credit score or to order it online, we're talking about free stuff here.

There are two easy ways to get a free credit report: by phone or through the mail. Of course, it's only easy if you can find the right forms and phone numbers, and the credit bureaus don't make them easy to find them. I, however, said this was going to be easy to do, so here are the phone numbers you'll need:

Equifax: 1-800-465-7166

TransUnion: 1-800-663-9980 (outside Quebec) or 1-877-713-3393 (within Quebec)

And here are the forms if you're going the mail-in route:

Equifax credit report request form

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TransUnion credit report request form (outside Quebec) or within Quebec

In addition to the form, you'll need to photocopy both sides of two pieces of identification: your driver's licence, health card, signed credit card, social insurance card or one of these other acceptable forms of identification. Mail the form and the photocopied identification to the address listed on the form and you're done.

If you're ordering your report by phone, have your social insurance number and credit card ready. A computerized voice will guide you through the process and ask whether you want to pay for your credit score. If you don't want to see your score, just say no and you're done. I ordered a free report from Equifax by phone and it took less than a week to arrive in my mailbox.

When you get your report, make sure all the information is accurate. If your report shows loans or credit cards that you didn't apply for, someone may have used your identity to apply for credit or the credit bureau may have incorrect information about your credit use. Either way, you'll want to tell the credit bureau about the discrepancy immediately.

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