The Equifax data breach last summer exposed the Social Security numbers of almost half of all Americans. The full impact of the data theft may not be clear for many years yet, but the exposure of Social Security numbers can cause long-term problems related to identity theft.
Equifax and other data reporting companies use the private financial records of virtually every American for their profits, yet they clearly do not do enough to protect your privacy. One data expert told reporters at Mother Jones magazine that he had alerted Equifax to the data vulnerability issue months earlier and warned them to fix the problem. “It should’ve been fixed the moment it was found. It would have taken them five minutes, they could’ve just taken the site down,” the data expert said. Equifax ignored the warnings and failed to address the problem.
After the breach, consumers were urged to take action to prevent the stolen data from being used to open credit cards in their name. But many people are not aware that their data was hacked, and people are busy with their lives and don’t have the time or know-how to protect themselves.
On top of that lack of awareness of the problem, consumers must pay to protect their financial records. The three main credit reporting companies charge consumers for freezing their credit, and charge again for lifting or removing the freeze. While Equifax has temporarily removed its fee, there is no protection against it charging in the future.
Your financial data belongs to you, not the credit bureaus. You should not be required to pay a fee to protect your financial data from data thieves, especially when those credit reporting agencies are the ones who compromise your financial security.
As a result, I am introducing legislation to impose a ban on fees for freezing your credit records. A handful of other states ban these fees, but Minnesota does not.
These companies collect very personal financial data, but are not looking out for the best interests of the people whose information they control. Minnesotans should not face financial obstacles to protecting their personal credit information.
Here is a brief interview from Capitol Report discussing the need to ban fees on credit freezes in Minnesota. Here is a link to Federal Trade Commission information on credit freezes and other options for protecting your financial data.
John Marty, DFL-Roseville, is a state senator. He first published this article in his newsletter, “To the Point!” which is published by the Apple Pie Alliance.
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