Miller's legislation follows Equifax data breach
DES MOINES — Starting July 1, Iowans will pay no fees to place or remove a freeze on access to their credit reports. On Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 2177, which was proposed by the Iowa Attorney General’s office as well as state legislators. Iowans pay some of the highest freeze-related fees in the nation to credit reporting agencies.
“I just don’t think these fees are fair to Iowa consumers, and the Equifax case is Exhibit A,” Attorney General Tom Miller said. “If a company you have no control over exposes your personal information through negligence or as a result of someone else’s criminal act, you shouldn’t get left holding the bag simply because you want to protect yourself from identity thieves through credit freezes.” The bill passed the Iowa Senate on March 20 on a 49-0 vote and the Iowa House on March 28, 100-0. The bill was managed by Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, and Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant. Miller had proposed the legislation following the massive Equifax data breach disclosed in September, affecting 1.1 million Iowans and 143 million consumers nationwide. Miller and a bipartisan group of state attorneys general continue to investigate the data breach. Equifax agreed to temporarily waive its credit freeze-related fees following heavy criticism by the public, federal lawmakers and state attorneys general — including Miller. Equifax, however, plans to reinstate the fees after June 30 in states that allow them. In addition, most Iowa consumers must pay to freeze and lift credit report freezes from each of the two other major credit reporting agencies — Experian and TransUnion. The bill signed by the governor prohibits credit reporting agencies from charging fees for “placing, removing, temporarily suspending or reinstating a security freeze.” The bill also shortens the amount of time that a credit reporting agency must start the security freeze (from five days to three).
Credit Freezes Protect Against Identify Theft
A credit freeze restricts access to a consumer’s credit report. The freeze makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts under a consumer’s name, because lenders generally review a consumer’s credit history before extending credit. A consumer who freezes a credit report can temporarily lift the freeze when applying for credit or a job that requires a credit background search, and can also request to permanently remove the freeze. Credit freeze-associated charges vary by state, and several states prohibit certain fees. While Iowa law forbids credit reporting agencies from charging credit freeze-related fees for confirmed identity theft victims, the law permits credit reporting agencies to charge most Iowans $10 to freeze their file, $12 to temporarily lift a freeze, and $10 to permanently remove one. Iowa’s allowable temporary lift fee was the highest in the nation. A consumer who freezes all three files would pay a total of $30 to place freezes, $36 to temporarily lift them, and $30 to permanently remove them.
Identity Theft Consumer Tips
Request and review your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). You can obtain each one for free once a year through a single website: www.annualcreditreport.com. You can choose to obtain all three at once, or you can stagger and rotate them throughout the year (one report from a different agency every four months). Consider an initial fraud alert. If you suspect or confirm that someone stole your identity, an initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. An initial fraud alert requires a business to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. You only need to contact one credit reporting agency about an initial fraud alert, and that agency will notify the other two. Monitor your accounts. Review your statements and report any activity that is suspicious. Be wary of breach-related scams. Do not provide or “confirm” personal information to a caller who claims the call is related to the data breach, even if caller-ID information appears legitimate. Be wary of emails, which can be fake but look authentic, and be especially wary of clicking on links, opening attachments, or entering information on website addresses provided through emails or pop-up ads. Consumers with questions or complaints can contact the Consumer Protection Division through our website at www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov, email us at email@example.com, or call 515-281-5926 or toll-free at 888-777-4590 (outside the Des Moines metro area only). For more information about identity theft, go to our website at www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov. To report and recover from identity theft, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s site at www.identitytheft.gov.