Maryland PIRG is pleased to support HB710/SB202 to give Marylanders control of their financial information through access to free credit "freezes," “thaws” annd “temporary lifts.”
Last year, the Maryland Generlal Assembly passed a law to provide Marylanders with access to freeze their credit with the three credit bureaus for free. Since, we have had a startling reminder of why consumers need even more control over their financial information. Through one security breach alone, Equifax put approximately 3 million Marylanders at increased risk of identity theft. That is more than half our population and every Maryland family is likely at risk because of this breach. Just this month, it was revealed that Equifax lost even more of our personal information than initially reported including tax ID numbers, phone numbers, and email addresses.
A credit freeze prohibits the credit bureaus from sharing your information without your consent. And by doing so, it prevents identity thieves from creating fake accounts in your name. Getting a free credit freeze at all three national credit bureaus, as enabled by Maryland law, is the best action consumers can take after the Equifax breach, whether they were affected by it or not.
Unfortunately, Marylanders can still be charged $5 by Equifax, TransUnion and Experian each time they want to “thaw” or “temporarily lift” a freeze. Consumers need to be able to temporarily lift a freeze to apply for credit to do things like buy a car or home or get a credit card. In some cases, Marylanders need to do so to apply for a job or apartment. Thaw and lifts should be available to all Marylanders free of charge.
We didn't hire Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to collect financial data about us, and we certainly didn't give them permission to lose it. We should not have to pay them to keep our financial information private and secure.
I’m proud that Maryland is considering this law to expand Marylanders’ control of their credit. In fact, Maryland PIRG would go a step further and freeze everyone’s credit reports by default.
Passing HB710/SB202 would big win for consumers.