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Who says the government can’t do anything useful?

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve launched an online guide to inform consumers about new rules for credit scores and credit reports that will take effect in January, as well as providing more general information that consumers should know about improving their credit.

For example, the guide explains that lenders and insurance companies are allowed to see your credit report, but employers can only do so with your consent. Yet, under the new rules which were passed back in 2003, if any of these parties choose to deny you a job, insurance coverage or a loan because of information found in your credit report, they are obligated to notify you about your negative credit information. Additionally, they must provide you with contact information for the credit bureau that provided them with the report, and that bureau must then allow you to check your credit report for free within 60 days.

The guide also includes background information and a number of helpful tips for the average consumer.

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Want to improve your credit score? The first step, according to the guide, is to obtain a copy of your credit report and make sure there are no mistakes. How do you obtain your credit report for free? The guide has an answer for that, too: Use, and avoid the many other credit check sites out there that claim to be free but still may charge you.

On top of this, the guide provides definitive answers to important questions like how long personal bankruptcies will impact your credit report (10 years) and what to do if you dispute a claim on your report (contact a credit bureau, and if you find nothing wrong, ask to include a statement of your dispute in your future reports).

—For a comprehensive credit report, visit the Credit Center.