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Massive Equifax breach prompts legislative, political responses

Thursday, Sep 14, 2017

* Tribune

A governor candidate who serves as a lawmaker will find times when it helps to have a running mate who is also in the legislature.

That’s the case for the new tag team of Evanston state Sen. Daniel Biss, a Democratic candidate for governor, and his running mate, state Rep. Litesa Wallace of Rockford. Wallace was chosen after Biss quickly cut ties with his first pick for lieutenant governor, Chicago Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.

Biss introduced legislation in the Senate prompted by the fallout over the hacking of Equifax. It would eliminate fees that credit-reporting companies are allowed to charge for imposing or lifting a credit security freeze.

Wallace will join with colleagues in the House to sponsor similar legislation, the Biss campaign said.

* From Biss’ press release…

“Companies like Equifax are mishandling private data and then leaving the victims of their negligence to pay the price,” said Daniel Biss. “We shouldn’t have to pay to secure and access our own financial records, especially when a reckless agency has left us vulnerable to identity theft. That may have been business as usual, but that’s not how business will be done in Illinois anymore.”

Under current Illinois law, credit reporting agencies can charge a $10 fee for imposing or lifting a credit security freeze—even when the agency is at fault for a security breach compromising consumer data. Daniel’s bill will eliminate these fees entirely, empowering consumers to protect their credit ratings and preventing agencies from making a profit from their own failures to protect private data.

“Corporations have built a system that works for them while leaving the rest of us behind,” said Litesa Wallace. “These bills provide an overdue correction for a predatory practice and serve as another example of why Daniel is the right candidate to protect middle class and working families like ours as governor.”

* Illinois PIRG…

Consumer advocates praised the introduction of House Bill 4095, legislation to make credit freezes free for all Illinois residents, sponsored by Representative Greg Harris and championed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Senator Biss has filed companion legislation in the Senate, Senate Bill 2230.

In response to the Equifax data breach, which has placed over 140 million Americans at risk for various forms of identity theft, consumer advocates and Attorney Generals have advised consumers to seriously consider placing a credit freeze with all three credit bureaus. A credit freeze is the only real tool consumers have to stop new account identity theft.

“We applaud Attorney General Madigan, Representative Harris, and Senator Biss for responding quickly with legislation to protect Illinois consumers,” said Abe Scarr, Illinois PIRG director. “There is no reason why consumers should be charged a fee to place a credit freeze on their sensitive personal information. We look forward to working with legislators from both parties to ensure Illinois residents have free access to this critical tool to protect their financial well-being.”

Illinois residents currently have to pay a fee to access this basic security feature. State law provides exemptions for residents 65 or older, active duty service members, and victims of identity theft with a police report. HB4095 and SB2230 would allow all Illinois residents to place a freeze on their credit reports, or lift an existing freeze, for free.

Joining Illinois PIRG in supporting the legislation are Center for Changing Lives, Citizen Action Illinois, Digital Privacy Alliance, Heartland Alliance, Navicore Solutions, and Woodstock Institute.

“Given recent data breaches, there has never been a more critical time for this legislation,” says Jody Blaylock, Senior Policy Associate with Heartland Alliance. “We must ensure that people, especially those experiencing poverty, can protect their credit and continue to build financial security.”

Seven states have laws making credit freezes free, including Indiana. Illinois PIRG has this guide for consumers interested in placing a credit freeze with all three credit bureaus.

* AG Madigan…

Attorney General Madigan has received an outpouring of questions from concerned and confused Illinois residents about whether their sensitive personal information has been compromised by Equifax’s massive data breach. In response, Madigan is providing updated information to Illinois residents and calling on Equifax to pay credit freeze fees for people with all three major credit reporting agencies, including Experian and TransUnion.

Late last week, Equifax announced it had suffered a massive data breach of sensitive consumer information from May to July of this year, impacting as many as 143 million Americans. Yesterday, Equifax notified Madigan that in Illinois, the breach may impact more than 5.4 million residents.

“Equifax has failed to answer basic questions that millions of Americans whose personal information it likely lost have including: How did the data breach happen? What is Equifax going to do to fix it? And why did it take Equifax six weeks to notify people that their personal information had been stolen?” Madigan said. “Most importantly, it appears that Equifax currently does not have the ability to accurately determine whether your personal information has been stolen. I suggest you assume it has been and put a credit freeze on your credit report to get the best protection you can from identity theft. Equifax needs to stop wasting time and making excuses and start paying for long-term protections that its security failure has made imperative for most Americans.”

Consumers are confused as to whether they have been impacted by the breach, and what they should do if they determine their personal information has been compromised. Some Illinois residents say they received different answers from Equifax at different times, depending on the browser platform they used. Consumers also reported that the Equifax website was inaccessible at times due to high traffic volume.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

10 Comments
  1. - LXB - Thursday, Sep 14, 17 @ 9:40 am:

    It’s surprising Biss hasn’t taken more advantage of his ability to introduce legislation.


  2. - Anonymous - Thursday, Sep 14, 17 @ 10:03 am:

    Someone please check to see if Bruce Rauner is on the board of Equifax. Sounds like its right up his alley.


  3. - City Zen - Thursday, Sep 14, 17 @ 11:13 am:

    ==Someone please check to see if Bruce Rauner is on the board of Equifax.==

    Or if our state pension funds hold Equifax stock.


  4. - NoGifts - Thursday, Sep 14, 17 @ 11:30 am:

    And hearken back to the words of the crisis manager referenced in another part of the blog. A late and superficial sorry…and you’re on your own. They should put in requirements for data breach companies to fix the problems. Equifax has all the information for people who’ve been breached. They could presumably make a deal with the other two credit agencies to freeze credit for affected individuals and offer that to us. They also have the account information for all our credit card accounts AND bank accounts. They could electronically transmit data to those companies to establish a fraud watch. It is absurd that they don’t take ANY action to assist the people they’ve hurt. Is it because “we” are not really their customers??


  5. - Ed Higher - Thursday, Sep 14, 17 @ 11:47 am:

    Mother of All Class-Action Suits?


  6. - Streator Curmudgeon - Thursday, Sep 14, 17 @ 12:02 pm:

    Republicans dragged their feet on consumer protection and fought Senator Elizabeth Warren on the Consumer Protection Agency. If this breach doesn’t prove that NO business/institution/agency is safe online, Congress has its collective head…in the sand.

    The damage has already been done. The only thing that might slow such hacks in the future is extreme prison sentences for hackers, but they’re so efficient at covering their tracks, even that would not be a deterrent.


  7. - Anon Downstate - Thursday, Sep 14, 17 @ 12:47 pm:

    Went to the Equifax website to freeze my credit.

    Finally got everything loaded & hit the “SUBMIT” button:

    “We are currently unable to service your request.
    Please try again later.”

    IMO, these folks are just woefully behind the curve.


  8. - Mike Cirrincione - Thursday, Sep 14, 17 @ 2:59 pm:

    @streator:

    Oh c’mon. Just let the Markets take care of it. Thats what the Conservatives say!


  9. - Ferris Bueller - Thursday, Sep 14, 17 @ 5:32 pm:

    Best case scenario, what’s the earliest that this could pass (because it is important and there is currently $10 per freeze/unfreeze) for each reporting bureau? I’m assuming November veto?


  10. - Late to the Party - Friday, Sep 15, 17 @ 7:23 am:

    I applaud the effort to rescind the credit bureaus’ fee for credit freeze.

    Its too bad it took this data breach for the powers that be to realize that the credit bureaus hold us all hostage to their fees.


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