In Iowa, consumers must pay each agency to protect their credit from identity thieves by freezing their credit reports
DES MOINES – Attorney General Tom Miller today joined with a bipartisan group of state attorneys general in asking credit reporting agencies Experian and TransUnion to waive credit freeze-related fees they charge consumers, following the recent Equifax data breach that affects nearly half of all consumers nationwide.
“We have heard from our consumers that they are outraged that they should have to pay a company with which they do not choose to do business in order to protect themselves from identity theft as a result of a breach that was not their fault,” the attorneys general from 36 states plus the District of Columbia wrote in letters sent to executives at both companies. “The crisis in confidence extends to the entire credit reporting industry.”
On September 7, Equifax disclosed the breach, which affects 143 million consumers nationwide, including 1.1 million Iowans. The compromised personal information includes names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and, in some cases, credit card and driver’s license information.
Credit Freeze Can Help Defeat Identity Thieves
Miller has since urged consumers to protect themselves by considering placing credit freezes with each of the three major credit reporting agencies. A credit freeze allows a consumer to restrict access to his or her credit report, which can make it difficult for an identity thief to open new accounts under a victim’s name.
Freezing and Unfreezing Credit Costs Iowans
However, in most states, including Iowa, credit reporting agencies charge consumers both to place a freeze and to lift one—even temporarily—when a consumer, for example, applies for credit or a job that requires a credit check. Iowa law allows credit reporting agencies to charge $10 to place a credit freeze, $12 to lift it temporarily—the highest fee allowed by law in the nation—and $10 to remove it. Equifax agreed to waive its credit freeze fees—at least temporarily.
Seven states currently prohibit credit reporting agencies from charging fees to place a credit freeze. Bills introduced in two states and in Congress seek to require the agencies to offer credit freezes for free.
Miller Supports Changing Credit Freeze Fees Law
“I support changing the law here in Iowa that currently allows credit reporting agencies to profit from consumers who were victimized by a breach and want to take the simple step of protecting their credit through a credit freeze,” Miller said. “Let’s change it so Iowans no longer have to pay those fees,” Miller added. “In the meantime, consumers need help now and I hope that the credit reporting agencies will move quickly to waive these fees.”
Last month, following the Equifax announcement, Miller’s office issued a consumer alert, urging Iowans to check to see if the breach affects them. Consumers can find out through a special website at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Consumers with questions can also call an Equifax breach call center at 866-447-7559 from 6 a.m. to midnight, Central time.
The consumer alert offers additional advice about credit monitoring, security freezes, initial fraud alerts, and other tips.