Credit freeze bill clears the Senate

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By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts Photo Mike Festa
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S.B. 2455: An Act Removing Fees for Security Freezes and Disclosures of Consumer Credit Reports

Consumers are now one step closer to having meaningful protections from identity theft.

On behalf of 800,000 AARP members in Massachusetts and as the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing the interests of Americans age 50 and older and their families, we praise the Senate for passing An Act Removing Fees for Security Freezes and Disclosures of Consumer Credit Reports.

One of the key provisions of this bill will prevent a consumer reporting agency from charging a fee when consumers elect to place, suspend or remove a security freeze from their credit report, giving the residents of Massachusetts the power to control access to their credit report without cost.

Older adults are increasingly the target for identity theft, and one of the most effective ways to protect consumers is through a security freeze, which safeguards a person’s credit report. Without access to this information, identity thieves are unable to obtain credit in that person’s name, minimizing potential for fraud. This bill will go a long way in reducing the threat of identity theft for consumers.

With more access to credit due to their longer careers and higher incomes, older adults are the most common targets of identity theft nationwide. Individuals age 50-59 filed more than 7,200 complaints of identity theft in Massachusetts alone in 2016, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Credit reporting firm Equifax revealed in 2017 that hackers stole financial and consumer data on at least 143 million customers in the U.S., including at least 3 million residents of the commonwealth, it’s quite possible that the personal information — including birth date, Social Security number, driver’s license number and address — of many of us in this room has fallen into the hands of criminals.

A security freeze allows an individual to voluntarily restrict access to their credit report so that new lines of credit cannot be opened. Enacting such a freeze can make it more difficult for criminals to steal an identity and open up new credit accounts or loans in someone else’s name. A credit report security freeze does not affect a person’s credit score, and can be removed at any time.

Currently, credit reporting firms can charge consumers whenever they freeze or unfreeze their credit report, and consumers trying to protect their identities would have to pay each of the three credit agencies every time they freeze or unfreeze their credit.

We thank State Sen. Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) for her leadership on S.B. 2455 and thank the entire Senate for their unanimous, bipartisan vote to advance this important legislation. We also appreciate the tireless efforts of MassPIRG on behalf of consumers.

We now urge legislators to get this bill to Governor Baker’s desk as quickly as possible.

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