By Bob Katzen
Bill (H 4806) Prohibits consumer reporting agencies, like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion from charging fees for freezing and unfreezing a person’s credit information. Under current law, companies can and have charged up to $5 per freeze or unfreeze.
A freeze makes the report inaccessible until the consumer unfreezes it. Since banks and other lenders require access to the borrower’s credit report before giving a loan, this greatly reduces identity thieves from getting a loan or credit in another individual’s name.
The proposal gained momentum following the 2017 crisis when, from May to July, the personal information including names, social security numbers, addresses, driver’s licenses, and credit card numbers of 145 million Americans was stolen from Equifax’s systems. Equifax didn’t reveal the breach until September and consumers lost valuable time to act.
Other provisions of the bill prohibit businesses from obtaining a consumer’s credit report without obtaining written, verbal or electronic consent from the consumer; require credit monitoring services to be available for 3.5 years for some consumers affected by a breach; and improve notices and consumer information the companies are required to give.
“This is good news and offers consumers new tools to protect themselves from identity theft after a security breach like the recently announced ones at Equifax and Marriott,” said Deirdre Cummings, legislative director for MASSPIRG. “While a good first step, we still have some more work to do to hold companies accountable for failing to properly safeguard our personal information.”
“With more access to credit due to their longer careers and higher incomes, older adults are the most common targets of identity theft nationwide,” said Mike Festa, State Director of AARP Massachusetts. “Individuals age 50-59 filed more than 7,200 complaints of identity theft in Massachusetts alone in 2017, according to the Federal Trade Commission.”