After the epic Equifax data breach that exposed personal data, including Social Security numbers, of more than 143 million Americans, consumers are nearing the deadline to protect their credit.
Equifax offered free credit freezes to make up for the data breach, but only until January 31. After the clock runs out, Coloradans can expect to pay $10 for a credit freeze. In Colorado, the first freeze is free, and any subsequent freezes, temporary lifts or permanent unfreezes are $10 each. A credit freeze places an indefinite hold on a consumer’s credit history and score.
“That’s important, because it denies identity thieves the ability to open up any fake accounts in your name when you have a credit freeze,” says Danny Katz, director of the nonprofit Colorado Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy group. “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.”
Consumers shouldn’t just stop with Equifax; a credit freeze is only effective if placed at all three major consumer reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. In addition to credit freezes, consumers can further protect themselves from identity thieves by opting out of pre-approved offers of credit by mail.
Coloradans could see enhanced consumer protections in the near future. The General Assembly is considering four bills to protect consumer data for minors and adults from cybersecurity threats.
HB 1128 would require any private or public company in the state to securely destroy personal data if it’s no longer needed. The bill would also require companies that experience data breaches to notify victims within 45 days from the date of the security breach.
HB 1129 would allow parents or legal guardians to request a credit freeze for their child or minor under their guardianship.
HB 1063 would require any consumer reporting agency to receive prior consent before releasing or selling a consumer report to a third-party agency.
HB 1090 would require consumer reporting agencies to place automatic credit freezes on the reports of all Coloradans under eighteen years old free of charge.