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Illinois Senate OKs bill to make security freeze protection free for consumers

Consumers Union calls on Governor Rauner to sign identity theft bill into law 

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Senate approved legislation today that enables Illinois residents to use security freeze protection for free to prevent identity thieves from opening new accounts or lines of credit using stolen information.  The bill has already been passed in the Illinois House.  Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, applauded state lawmakers for supporting HB 4095 and urged Governor Bruce Rauner to sign the identity theft protection bill into law.

“The Equifax data breach has left nearly half of all Americans vulnerable to identity theft for potentially the rest of their lives,” said Maureen Mahoney, policy analyst for Consumers Union.   “The hackers who stole this sensitive information can easily use it to open fraudulent accounts and ruin their victims’ credit records.  Making security freeze protection free will enable more Illinois residents to prevent fraud and stop identity thieves in their tracks.”

The Equifax breach compromised the personal information of almost 148 million Americans.  Although this is one of the largest breaches to date, it is hardly the first to put consumers’ data at risk. Over the last 15 years, hundreds of companies ranging from high-end retailers to hotel chains, and from pharmacies to data brokers, have been compromised, with consumers bearing the brunt of the harm.

A security freeze gives consumers the choice to “freeze” or block access to their credit file against identity thieves trying to open up a new account or to get new credit in their name.  Under current Illinois law, most consumers in Illinois must pay $10 to each of the three major credit bureaus when they place, temporarily lift, or remove a credit freeze.

When a security freeze is in place at all three major credit bureaus, an identity thief cannot open a new account because the potential creditor or seller of services will not be able to check the credit file. When the consumer is applying for credit, he or she can lift the freeze temporarily using a PIN so legitimate applications for credit or services can be processed.

If HB 4095 becomes law, Illinois will join six other states that have passed laws enabling consumers to place and remove security freeze protection for free:  Indiana, Maine, Nebraska, North Carolina (if placed online), South Carolina, and South Dakota.  Four other states enable consumers to place a security freeze for free, but they can be charged to temporarily lift or remove a freeze:  Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.  Lawmakers in a number of other states are currently considering bills that would provide free security freeze protection for all consumers.

Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org, 415-902-9537 (cell) or 415-431-6747 (office)