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Time for MA to Pass the Free Credit Freeze Bill

By Deirdre Cummings
Legislative Director

Free Credit Freeze

 

An Act Removing Fees for Security Freezes and Disclosures of Consumer Credit Reports, SB 130 & HB 134

Lead Bill Sponsors: Senator Barbara L’Italien and Representative Jennifer Benson

Equifax’s massive security breach – affecting 3 million Massachusetts residents and 143 million Americans nationwide – is just the most recent reminder of the need to allow consumers to lock down or “freeze” their credit reports preventing identity thieves from setting up new credit accounts in an unsuspecting consumer’s name.  An Act Removing Fees for Security Freezes and Disclosures of Consumer Credit Reports, SB 130 & HB 134, filed by Senator Barbara L’Italien (Andover) and Representative Jennifer Benson (Lunenburg), allows consumers to “freeze” and “thaw” their credit reports for free. Freezing your credit report prevents identity thieves from setting up new accounts because creditors will not open a new account without first checking a consumer’s credit report.

In 2016 over $16 billion was stolen from 15 million Americans as a result of identity theft – a 16% jump from the year before.  While consumers are not liable for the fraudulent charges, they spend endless time, effort and frustration in clearing up their credit reports after they have been victimized.  In the meantime, because of their poor credit rating as a result of the fraud, they are charged higher interest rates for credit and risk losing out on a new job or housing. According to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) it took credit bureaus more than six months to correct the credit reports of more than half of the identity theft victims surveyed.  And that’s if victims detect fraud in a timely manner - the FTC also reports that less than a third of victims are able to do so within a week.

The three major credit reporting agencies - Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian - charge Massachusetts consumers $5 to freeze their credit reports and an additional $5 every time they want to thaw or lift the freeze with each credit bureau. While some of the fees are waived if you are a victim of identity theft and have a police report, it is too onerous and more importantly too late for consumers to protect themselves. Maine, Indiana, and South Carolina already have passed laws allowing all consumers to freeze and thaw their credit reports for free. Some states only limit or waive fees for certain groups of people or just for the freeze and not a thaw.

Credit reporting agencies should be encouraging consumers to freeze their credit reports, not discouraging us. 

Legislative Cosponsors:

Sen. Michael Barrett

Sen. Sal DiDomenico

Sen. James Eldridge

Sen. Anne Gobi

Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives

Sen. Patricia Jehlen

Sen. John Keenan

Sen. Barbara L'Italien*

Sen. Michael Rush

Rep. Jennifer Benson*

Rep. Paul Brodeur

Rep. Antonio Cabral

Rep. Daniel Cahill

Rep. Mike Connolly

Rep. Brendan Crighton

Rep. Will Crocker

Rep. Michael Day

Rep. Marjorie Decker

Rep. Diana DiZoglio

Rep. William Driscoll

Rep. Michelle Dubois

Rep. Paul Frost

Rep. William Galvin

Rep. Denise Garlick

Rep. Colleen Garry

Rep. Susan Williams Gifford

Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose

Rep. Paul Heroux

Rep. Natalie Higgins

Rep. Bradford Hill

Rep. Steven Howitt

Rep. Dan Hunt

Rep. Randy Hunt

Rep. Louis Kafka

Rep. Kay Khan

Rep. Robert Koczera

Rep. Kevin Kuros

Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis

Rep. David Linsky

Rep. Elizabeth Malia

Rep. Paul Mark

Rep. Paul McMurty

Rep. Adrian Madaro

Rep. John Mahoney

Rep. Joan Meschino

Rep. Brian Murray

Rep. Keiko Orrall

Rep. Sarah Peake

Rep. Elizabeth Poirier

Rep. Denise Provost

Rep. Angelo Puppolo, Jr.

Rep. David Rogers

Rep. Angelo Scaccia

Rep. John Scibak

Rep. Todd Smola

Rep. Thomas Stanley

Rep. Jose Tosado

Rep. Steven Ultrino

Rep. Aaron Vega

Rep. John Velis

Rep. Chris Walsh

Rep. Bud Williams

Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik

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