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U.S. PIRG Urges Congress to Follow the Lead of Several States and Stop Letting Equifax off the Hook After New Reports of Stolen Data

WASHINGTON - Equifax has reported the loss of information for an additional 2.4 million Americans in its massive data breach. U.S. PIRG is urging Congress to stop current efforts to let Equifax and the other credit bureaus off the hook for data breaches. It is also highlighting the work states are doing to the fill the void left by Congress for protecting consumers.

“Why did it take Equifax so long to disclose this additional stolen information? And why is Congress working on a data breach notification bill that exempts Equifax, the other credit bureaus, and all banks?” asked Mike Litt, consumer campaign director with U.S. PIRG. “In addition to raising more questions over Equifax’s many failures, these new revelations of stolen information show the urgent need for action. But not action that would let Equifax off the hook or replace stronger state laws.”

The newly reported stolen information - names and partial driver’s license numbers - could be used to “phish” for even more personal information and to commit identity theft. Consumers should beware fraudulent emails and phone calls asking to verify their personal or financial information.

Several states are taking decisive action to give consumers control of their credit reports to prevent identity theft, by moving free credit freeze laws toward final passage. Meanwhile, Congress is likely to soon consider a bill that requires merchants, telecoms and some others to notify the public when they are hacked but continues to exempt Equifax, other credit bureaus and all banks from such breach notification. The draft bill also preempts, or overrides, stronger state data security or breach notice laws.

States working on pro-consumer privacy & data security bills include:

  • Washington - A PIRG-backed free freeze bill is on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.
  • Illinois - Despite a letter from the trade association representing Equifax and other credit bureaus claiming that a free freeze for any consumer not yet a victim of identity theft “is a free freeze too far,” a bill backed by the AG is on its way to a vote by the Senate.
  • Massachusetts - A bill that makes freezes free and includes other important consumer protections, such as seeking consent from a consumer before his or her credit report is obtained and requiring encryption of personal information for entities with access to information of large numbers of people, has passed the House and heads to the Senate.
  • In Oregon, a data breach notification and free freeze bill heads to the House after passing the Senate.
  • Legislative progress on free freezes has also been made in other states, including California, Colorado, Florida, and Maryland

“Instead of moving on legislation that would let Equifax off the hook, Congress should follow the lead of many states and give consumers more control over their financial information,” Litt said.

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U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.

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