Washington, D.C. – In response to reports that millions of Americans’ personally identifiable and credit card information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax Inc., U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced legislation to allow hardworking Americans to protect themselves from financial fraud at no cost.
Wyden’s Free Credit Freeze Act would guarantee all consumers can use PIN numbers to freeze and unfreeze their credit free-of-charge to stop fraudsters from opening new unauthorized financial accounts. The Equifax (NYSE:EFX) data breach, which exposed credit information of more than 200,000 Americans as well as Social Security numbers, birthdates and driver’s license numbers of an estimated 143 million Americans, has underscored the importance of credit freezes. Cybersecurity experts and the Federal Trade Commission recommend credit freezes as a method of protecting against identity theft.
But currently, credit bureaus charge consumers recurring fees as high as $15 each time they use their PIN numbers to freeze or unfreeze their credit reports. Those fees quickly add up for working families.
“Companies like Equifax that have stockpiled massive, insecure databases of Americans’ most sensitive personal data must make security the top priority at every single stage,” Wyden said. “Given the frequency of these mega breaches, it is simply unacceptable for the credit agencies to continue to charge hardworking Americans who want to protect their credit and their identity from fraudsters. The Free Credit Freeze Act gives power back to consumers by requiring credit reporting agencies to provide credit freezes to consumers at no cost.”
On Monday, Wyden, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, along with Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, called on Equifax Inc. to respond to the reports that the firm experienced a data breach.
The National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients) has endorsed the Free Credit Freeze Act.
“The Equifax data breach highlights the need for consumers to have more control over their credit reports, including the ability to freeze and unfreeze without charge,” said Chi Chi Wu, National Consumer Law Center staff attorney. “Senator Wyden’s bill does just that.”
Wyden yesterday filed the Free Credit Freeze Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate is currently considering.
Read bill text here.