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Consumers Union Supports Senate bill creating free default security freeze for consumers

Senator Reed’s bill prevents identity theft fraud by giving consumers control over when creditors and insurers can access credit reports

February 1, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C.  A new bill introduced by Senator Jack Reed will help protect consumers from identity theft fraud by giving them greater control over when creditors and insurers can access their credit files, according to Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports.  The bill creates a default security freeze for all consumers that will prevent identity thieves from opening fraudulent credit accounts and insurance policies using stolen personal information.

“The recent Equifax data breach was a reminder for millions of Americans about how vulnerable they are to having their personal information end up in the hands of crooks,” said Anna Laitin, Director of Financial Policy for Consumers Union.  “Identity theft can ruin a consumer’s financial future when thieves open new credit accounts or insurance policies in their names.  This bill will stop identity thieves in their tracks by freezing access to credit files unless the consumer gives their consent.”

Under the bill, credit bureaus would have to get the consumer’s affirmative consent and verify the consumer’s identity before giving creditors and insurers access to credit files.   If the credit bureau is unable to get consent or verify the applicant’s identity, the crook won’t be able to obtain credit or insurance using the consumer’s personal information.  The bill also creates an opt-in, with identity verification requirements, for prescreening offers of credit and insurance.  The identity verification procedure required under the bill is already used by credit bureaus when they provide free credit reports to consumers.

Consumers currently have the ability to put a security freeze on their credit report but they must do so at all three major credit bureaus and, in most states, pay a fee for placing the freeze and each time they lift it when applying for credit or insurance.  Senator Reed’s bill simplifies this process by making the freeze the default setting for credit reports nationwide and prohibits credit bureaus from charging consumers any fees for this protection.

Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org, 415-902-9537 (cell) or 415-431-6747, ext 7606 (office) or David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, 202-462-6262