WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine has introduced legislation to temporarily prevent the major credit-rating bureaus from charging to freeze a consumer’s credit. Currently, under District law, the credit reporting agencies can charge consumers for a credit freeze unless consumers have been the victims of identity theft. The “Credit Protection Fee Waiver Emergency Amendment Act of 2017,” and the “Credit Protection Fee Waiver Temporary Amendment Act of 2017,” introduced to the Council of the District of Columbia, require credit reporting agencies to offer consumers free credit freezes. This will help consumers protect themselves in the wake of data breaches like the recent Equifax breach, an exposure of sensitive personal information that may have affected more than 350,000 District residents.
“One way for consumers to protect themselves from identity theft in the wake of a big data breach like this one is to freeze their credit,” Attorney General Racine said. “District consumers – especially lower-income residents – shouldn’t have to pay for Equifax’s mistakes, so our bill prohibits credit reporting agencies from charging consumers to protect themselves.”
The bill, which is being introduced as emergency and temporary legislation, now goes to the Council for review and approval; Councilmembers are expected to consider it on Tuesday, October 3. Although Equifax has waived its fee for freezing consumers’ credit following the breach, the other major credit-reporting bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis) continue to charge.
“I would like to thank Councilmember Charles Allen, Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, for moving this bill on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General,” Attorney General Racine added.
Fighting to Protect Consumers’ Identities
Attorney General Racine is leading a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general who are investigating issues related to the Equifax breach. The coalition sent a letter to the company requesting that it disable its fee-based service for credit monitoring and reimburse consumers who have been forced to pay fees to freeze their credit.
Attorney General Racine recommends that District consumers take precautions in the wake of the breach, which may have affected as many as 143 million Americans. Equifax has established a dedicated website (available here) to help consumers determine whether they are at risk and to enroll in free credit monitoring. Given the massive size of the breach, Attorney General Racine suggests all District consumers take the following precautions:
- Check to see if your personal information was compromised by visiting the special website Equifax has set up to assist consumers (https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/);
- Regularly review your credit reports to check for any suspicious activity;
- Contact the Office of the Attorney General if you believe your identity has been stolen or your personal information may have been exposed by a retailer by calling OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection through the OAG Consumer Hotline at (202) 442-9828, by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or online using OAG’s Consumer Complaint Form.
- If you are a victim of a data breach, and you are concerned that your Social Security number may be used to file a fraudulent federal income tax return in your name, you can go to the IRS’s website at https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-fraud-scams/get-an-identity-protection-pin and obtain a six-digit PIN to use to authenticate your tax filings.
Resources to Protect Your Personal Information
For more information about how to monitor your credit and protect yourself against identity theft, see our Identity Theft Consumer Resource and browse our Online Consumer Protection Library for more ways to safeguard yourself against fraud.