Consumer protections focus on eliminating fees, requiring notification, and protecting privacy
In 2017, Equifax’s data was hacked in one of the single largest data security breaches in our nation’s history. Between May and July, the personal information - names, social security numbers, addresses, driver’s licenses, and credit card numbers - of nearly 145.5 million Americans was collected by criminals from Equifax’s systems. It wasn’t until September that the breach was even announced and consumers could protect themselves.
For the 3 million affected in Massachusetts, the best they could do was to freeze their credit report and register for credit monitoring. At the very least, that would prevent criminals from using stolen information to open new credit cards, take out loans, or commit other forms of identity theft.
Issues soon arose. Equifax charged consumers to freeze their credit. They made $5 off of every person who wanted to protect their identity after Equifax’s data was breached. Equifax waived the fee for a short period, but that is now over.
In response, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill that would protect Massachusetts consumers whose data was compromised by Equifax’s data breach, and would enhance safeguards against future hacks and threats.
Specifically, the bill prohibits fees for freezing/unfreezing your credit information, shortens the waiting period to implement a freeze, and allows you to request a freeze by phone or electronically. It requires notice of any breach to be sent out immediately even if the scope of breach is not yet determined. The legislation also requires credit monitoring services to be available for one year for certain consumers affected by a breach and establishes additional protections for minors and incapacitated adults.
One thing I’ve heard while talking to people is that they don’t even know if they were affected by the breach. Or, they know they were affected, but are unsure how to protect against future credit fraud. In a major shift, our bill requires users to first obtain consent from a consumer before obtaining a consumer report. This means, you’d have to sign off on a credit card company or phone company accessing your credit report.
Data privacy and security is an incredibly important issue in this new age. The House is committed to protecting consumers and their personal information. This bill empowers Massachusetts residents to take control of their credit history. No one should be prevented from buying a house, taking out a loan, or getting a new phone because their information was hacked. Our legislation brings us one step closer to this goal.