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This week, Equifax announced they would continue to waive their credit freeze fee until June 30th. CoPIRG is urging Coloradans to take advantage of this extension and get free credit freezes with Equifax if they haven’t already. However, it appears January 31st is the last day to sign up for a one year credit monitoring service for free. Equifax is offering these options to consumers after a breach of 145 million consumer records.
“Equifax has extended the deadline for getting free freezes on Equifax credit reports following its massive data breach. Although this gives consumers more time, there should be no deadline at all. Freezes should be free for consumers to get at any and all times,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG Director.
Amid news reports this week of a change in deadline from January 31st to June 30th, we called Equifax's freeze department and received confirmation of the change.
“Getting credit freezes at all three national credit bureaus is the best action consumers can take after the Equifax breach, whether they were affected by it or not. Even though you’ll outrageously still have to pay fees at Experian and TransUnion, you should get the free freeze with Equifax while you still can,” said Katz.
At an event at the State Capitol, CoPIRG staff also released a new factsheet with tips on how consumers can protect themselves and called on Colorado legislators to take action to remove fees for freezing and unfreezing your credit, to give Coloradans more control over their credit information, and to increase security and disclosure requirements for companies that hold consumer’s personal information.
“Consumers can only do so much to protect themselves from problems they didn’t create. We also need state policymakers to take action. Just in the first few weeks of the legislative session we’ve seen legislators from both sides of the aisle introduce good bills. Sponsors include Speaker Duran and Representatives Cole Wist, Jeff Bridges, Polly Lawrence, Dave Williams, and Kim Ransom and Senate sponsors Jack Tate, Lois Court, and Kent Lambert,” said Katz.
“It is great to see bipartisan support for protecting consumers and their financial information,” said Katz.
Different states have enacted different policies around credit freezes - a commonsense tool that allows consumers to freeze access to their credit history and scores, denying thieves the ability to open any fake accounts in their names.
Residents in four states – South Carolina, North Carolina, Maine, and Indiana – do not have to pay to freeze, thaw or unfreeze their credit information at any time. Currently, Colorado law allows you to get one free credit freeze but Coloradans have to pay to remove the freeze and for subsequent credit freezes.
More Information on Equifax’s Offerings
Equifax said they would be offering the following to consumers:
- TrustedID Premier: January 31st is the last day to sign up for TrustedID Premier, Equifax’s initial offer after the breach. It provides one year of free services such as credit monitoring. It doesn’t hurt to sign up for these services. However, you should know they are limited and, at best, only alert you to identity theft after it has occurred. Therefore, we also recommend you freeze your credit reports with all three national credit bureaus.
- Equifax Credit Freeze: January 31st was the last day Equifax was going to waive the fee it normally charges consumers to get credit freezes on their Equifax credit reports. However, it extended this offer to June 30th. We recommend that you take advantage of this option. The page for getting it is available at www.freeze.equifax.com. Note: For complete protection, you’ll need to freeze your reports with the other two bureaus, too (Experian and TransUnion). In Colorado, your first freeze is free but you can be charged $10 for any subsequent freezes and for any temporary lift or permanent removal of the freeze as well as a $12 fee for lifting a freeze for a specific company. CoPIRG opposes these fees because consumers shouldn’t have to pay to protect themselves for a problem they didn’t create. However, we recommend paying the fees for the peace of mind that comes from protecting yourself from new account identity theft.
“Blocking access to your credit report with one bureau but not the other two is like locking your front door but leaving your garage and back doors wide open,” said Katz. “We didn't hire Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to collect financial data about us, and we certainly didn't give them permission to lose it. We need policies that help all Coloradans keep their financial information private and secure for free.”
More Information on Colorado State Bills
The four bills that have been introduced so far achieve some of the policy goals that CoPIRG is calling for.
- HB 1128 adds data protection requirements and requires that breaches are disclosed to impacted consumers within 45 days of the breach.
- HB 1090 and HB 1129 eliminates the fees that consumers have to pay credit reporting agencies to place and lift freezes for younger Coloradans and dependents. HB 1090 also creates an automatic credit freeze for young people’s accounts.
- HB 1063 allows Colorado consumers to enroll in a system that would require companies to get permission from consumers before accessing their credit information.
“Taken together, the four Colorado bills increase consumer protections for Coloradans,” said Katz. “It is great to see bipartisan support and we encourage all legislators to support these bills and to expand the protections in these bills to everyone. Coloradans should not have to pay fees to protect themselves and their information. In addition, companies should have to get your permission before they can access your financial information.”
Here’s an analysis of the four major bills in Colorado so far:
HB-1063 (D. Williams) – Creates a system where credit reporting agencies must get your permission before sharing your information. The agencies must inform consumers this system exists and consumers must opt-in this protection. In addition, it gives consumers the ability to remove themselves and their credit information from a credit bureau if there is a breach in the future.
HB-1090 (Duran and Ransom) – Requires that credit reporting agencies place an automatic freeze on anyone who they have a file for who is under the age of 18 free of charge. The freeze is automatically removed when the person turns 18. However, if they want the freeze to continue they can notify the agency and the freeze remains free of charge. It also allows guardians to place a credit freeze on their child or dependent even if the credit agency doesn’t have a file for that consumer yet. It creates a system for legal guardians to place and remove freezes on their dependents. It also eliminates the fee for placing, lifting or removing credit freezes.
HB-1128 (Wist and Bridges, Lambert and Court) – Requires public and private entities that have personal identifying information on people to destroy that information when it is no longer needed. Requires that entities with people’s personal information and the third parties they use must have security practices that are appropriate to the information they hold. In addition, it requires entities give notice within 45 days of a breach to impacted people. Requires entities that have experienced a security breach that impacts more than 1000 Coloradans report it to credit reporting agencies and report breaches to the Colorado Attorney General that impact 500 or more Coloradans. Finally it gives the Attorney General authority to investigate and prosecute violations.
HB1129 (Lawrence and Tate) – Allows parents to freeze or lift credit freezes on their children’s credit information if the child is younger than 16 years of age and allows legal guardians to do the same for people they represent. Credit reporting agencies cannot charge for these actions. It also updates the enforcement sections of Colorado law to ensure these protected consumers are covered.
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