Image: Credit card © Hill Street Studios, Getty Images recently conducted a poll asking readers whether they had ever found errors on their credit reports. Of 2,142 respondents, 1,568, or approximately three out of four, reported that yes, they have at one time or another found such an error, according to Amber Stubbs, the managing editor of in Foster City, Calif.

With these findings, and the increasingly clever schemes of identity thieves, it shouldn't take much more to convince you to review your credit reports regularly and act promptly if you find errors in the reports.

Here are the steps you should take to dispute inaccuracies on your credit reports, which you are entitled to do under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

1. Get your free credit reports. All consumers are allowed one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), says Gail Cunningham, the vice president of public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C. Go to to request the free annual reports from each bureau. You can request all three reports at once or spread them out over different times of the year. (How's your credit? Get a free estimate with MSN Money's quiz.)

2. Check for errors and omissions. Review your credit reports for errors, Cunningham says. "A poor credit report impacts your ability to obtain credit, obtain insurance, rent an apartment or get a job. So it's very important to make sure the information is corrected if it's not."

It's also important that your credit reports don't shortchange your history. Don't see that gas credit card you paid off last year? Make a note to get it added. According to Rod Griffin, the director of public education for Experian, "An accurate and complete credit report is an important financial tool, and it can be treated just like a bank statement."

3. If there's an error, gather documentation. This step is critical. Take the time to assemble all the information you'll need to prove your case, such as copies of canceled checks and creditor statements.

If, for instance, a credit report shows that you still owe money on a bill that has been paid in full, include the statement that documents the zero balance, Cunningham says. "You're just stating the facts and making sure they understand your arguments," she adds.

4. Put it in writing. Contact the bureau whose report you believe to be inaccurate, giving your name, Social Security number and date of birth, Cunningham says. If you've moved recently, verify your previous address.

Write as if you were writing to a potential employer. Explain that you are disputing certain items, and give clear, factual reasons why. Include all the details of your case, such as account numbers, invoice numbers, check numbers and payment dates. Number your attachments to make it easy for the reader to find them. Make it clear what you want changed. Don't forget to sign your letter.