A bill that has cleared the Iowa Senate was inspired by he security breach at a credit reporting agency that exposed millions in the U.S., Canada and Britain to identity theft. Senator Brad Zaun’s bill would forbid the agencies from charging consumers a fee to freeze their credit in hopes of preventing scammers from taking out loans with the stolen information.
“It’s time that we stand up to these credit reporting agencies,” Zaun said, “and I think this is a step in the right direction.”
Equifax temporarily waived fees when its security breach was made public, but it generally costs $10 to put a freeze on your own credit report and $12 to get it lifted. Hackers stole names, birthdates and Social Security numbers in May and June of last year, but Equifax didn’t disclose the theft until September.
“I personally find responsible Equifax for not having the safeguards in place,” Zaun said. “I can say, in full disclosure, that my information was breached.”
Similar bills have been introduced in other states. A bill in Oregon’s legislature would go further and require a credit reporting agency to notify consumers within 45 days of any breach of their personal information. Zaun’s bill banning agencies like Equifax from charging consumers a fee to freeze their credit cleared the Iowa Senate this week by a unanimous vote.
“This is a very important issue,” Zaun said. “With the internet the way it is today, we’re really vulnerable.”
Senator Herman Quirmbach revealed he is a recent victim of identity theft.
“I was notified a couple of weeks ago by the Social Security Administration that somebody had filed for my benefits,” Quirmbach said. “…Fortunately, their security was better than Equifax’s and they did catch this and the claim was denied, but since then I have been through a lot of hassle trying to shut off a lot of other vulnerabilities.”
Zaun said both he and his wife have run into similar problems trying to clean up their credit record after a security breach.
“I, for one, have tried to correct some of the mistakes on my credit report and it sounds as if I might be a little bit biased, but it takes an act of congress or an act of God to change something on your credit reports,” Zaun said.
More than a million Iowans were affected by the Equifax security breach. Attorney General Tom Miller urged Iowans to check their credit reports and freeze their credit as protection from imposters.