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Senators call for credit report changes after Equifax breach

The reintroduced SECURE Act aims to put more power in consumers’ hands.
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In light of the Equifax breach that exposed personal information of over 143 million US citizens, a handful of senators have reintroduced legislation that would put more power in the hands of consumers when it comes to their credit reports. Senators Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Jeff Merkley (Oregon) have reintroduced the Stop Errors in Credit Use and Reporting (SECURE) Act.

Some of the stipulations of the proposed legislation include applying standards to credit reporting agencies, like Equifax, requiring them to do simple, obvious things like match consumers' names, addresses and Social Security numbers, issues with which can lead to credit report errors. The act also calls for better flow of information -- such as clearer credit reports, providing consumers with the same information used by lenders as well as sharing credit report disputes and resolutions -- which would allow consumers to both understand their credit reports better and more easily fix errors when they arise.

Additionally, the SECURE Act requires parents to be allowed to freeze their child's credit report to prevent identity theft that could go unnoticed for years. Under the legislation, credit reporting agencies would also have to join a national registry and the Government Accountability Office would be asked to look into the possibility of creating a national credit reporting system. Finally, consumers who sue credit reporting agencies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act would be given injunctive relief under SECURE, and agencies found to be in violation would be held accountable to the FTC.

Senator Schatz also sent a letter to Equifax CEO Richard Smith demanding the company go much further in its post-breach response including reimbursements for security freezes, unlimited free credit monitoring services and an audit of its security measures. Schatz also requested that the company respond to his letter by September 29th. You can read the full letter here.

In regards to the reintroduced act, Schatz said in a statement, "This is one of several important steps Congress can take in the wake of the Equifax cybersecurity breach. Because these credit agencies operate in the dark, they are allowed to be terribly unfair and unaccountable. Millions of Americans have bad credit because of mistakes from credit agencies, and it can ruin lives, stopping people from getting a job or owning a home or car."

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