Securing your credit
In the United States, your identity and credit history can be used to secure loans and insurance policies, gain employment and open credit cards. With so much at stake, it is essential to protect your credit, beginning with your credit report. Each of the U.S. credit bureaus provides tools to help minimize the risk of your credit report being used by unauthorized parties and avoid new accounts being opened in your name.
Review your credit report
Reviewing your credit report is the single best way to spot signs of identity theft, such as errors, suspicious activity and accounts or addresses you don’t recognize. The three U.S. credit bureaus are required to provide one free credit report per year upon request. Any suspicious or fraudulent credit listing should be reported to the credit bureau that is showing the activity.
The three nationwide credit bureaus have set up a central website and telephone number where you can order your free annual reports:
Implement a credit freeze
A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, restricts access to your credit report, making it more difficult for identity thieves to open accounts in your name and/or abuse your credit. A credit freeze prevents a person, merchant or institution from making an inquiry about your credit report unless you temporarily lift or remove the freeze.
Lift a credit freeze
A credit freeze remains in place until you direct the credit bureau to either temporarily lift it or remove it entirely. If possible, find out which credit bureau a merchant or prospective employer plans to use for its inquiry, and lift the freeze at that particular bureau using the pin code provided.
Protecting a family member’s credit
Fraudsters can potentially misuse a minor’s social security number or other personally identifying information for years without notice. To help protect a minor from being a financial target, ensure the same credit freeze precautions are implemented. While most minors do not have an existing credit file, it is wise to proactively secure their credit and identity by working with the credit agencies to protect them. Contact each credit bureau to institute a freeze on the credit of minors. Refer to the “Child Identity Theft” page on the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information site for more information (www.consumer.ftc.gov). Additionally, the same precautionary measures should be considered for elderly and vulnerable family members as they can be especially susceptible to fraud.
In the United States, contact each of the three credit bureaus if you wish to put a freeze in place or lift a freeze:
Equifax: 800.349.9960 | www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/credit-freeze
Experian: 888.397.3742 | www.experian.com/freeze
TransUnion: 888.909.8872 | www.transunion.com/freeze
Place a fraud alert
Placing a fraud alert on your credit file allows creditors to obtain a copy of your credit report—but they must take certain steps to verify your identity. Fraud alerts may be effective at stopping someone from opening new credit accounts in your name; however, they may not prevent the misuse of your existing accounts. Fraud alerts do not freeze your credit, and they allow your credit score to change even as they mitigate the risk of unauthorized use. Please note: You only need to contact one credit bureau to have a fraud alert put in place, as that bureau is required to share the alert with the other two bureaus. There are three types of fraud alerts available: Initial Fraud Alert, Extended Fraud Alert and Active Duty Military Alert.
In the United States, contact one of the three credit bureaus if you wish to place a fraud alert:
Equifax: 888.766.0008 | www.equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance
Experian: 888.397.3742 | www.experian.com/fraudalert
TransUnion: 800.680.7289 | www.transunion.com/fraud
If you believe you have been targeted by a fraud scheme or your login credentials have been compromised, contact J.P. Morgan immediately. For more information on how to protect you, your family or business, please contact your J.P Morgan representative.