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Bill to Make Credit Freezes Free Passes Legislature

April 26, 2018, 9:11 AM HST (Updated April 26, 2018, 9:11 AM)
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AARP Hawai‘i applauds the passage of House Bill 2342, which eliminates the fee for freezing and thawing credit reports, one of the best ways for consumers to protect themselves from identity theft.

“In light of the Equifax data breach and other thefts of personal information, the Legislature is making it easier for consumers to take charge of their own information and protect themselves from scammers,” said Barbara Kim Stanton, the state director of AARP Hawai‘i. “We thank the House and Senate for their support.”

In its session on Wednesday, April 25, 2018, the House voted unanimously to agree to the Senate version of the bill. The bill now goes to the governor.

The bill eliminates the fee that credit reporting agencies can charge consumers to place and remove a credit freeze, also known as a security freeze. AARP Hawai‘i supports HB2342 and believes that credit reporting agencies should not be making money from consumers who want control of their own information.

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Current Hawai‘i law allows credit reporting agencies to charge a fee of up to $5 for each request to the agency to place or remove a freeze. There are three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—so it can cost up to $15 every time you freeze your credit. It will cost $15 again if you want to lift the freeze to apply for a loan and another $15 to put the freeze back in place.

A credit freeze protect your identity because it allows you to choose who gets to see your credit report. It prevents identity thieves from seeing your credit report if they try to open an account in your name, but still allows you to authorize the release of your information if you need to apply for a loan or other credit.

Last year, AARP Fraud Watch Network Ambassador Frank Abagnale spoke at identity theft prevention workshops on O‘ahu and Maui. He told attendees about how he helped pass the nation’s first law in South Carolina, his home state, to make credit freezes free. Since then several other states have passed similar laws and the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs had bills introduced this session to make credit freezes free in Hawai‘i.

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Abagnale, one of the nation’s top identity theft experts, was the real-life inspiration for the movie “Catch Me if You Can.” While just a teenager, he stole millions of dollars from banks and airlines until his arrest. He turned his life around and now an author and consultant to the FBI and private businesses on preventing fraud and identity theft.

“There should be no reason for a fee because then that becomes a deterrent to people actually freezing their credit,” Abagnale said in his testimony on the bill. “The American consumer never told credit reporting agencies, ‘I give you permission to store my personal information.’ We didn’t sign a piece of paper that said Equifax can store my name and date of birth. We never authorized that. Why should we be paying a fee to have control over our information?”

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