After the shocking news of the massive Equifax data breach, which has now ballooned to jeopardize the privacy of nearly 148 million people, many Americans are rightfully scared and struggling to figure out how to protect themselves from the misuse of their personal information.

To protect against credit fraud, many consumer rights and privacy organizations recommend placing a ‘credit freeze’ with the credit bureaus. When criminals seek to use breached data to borrow money in the name of a breach victim, the potential lender normally runs a credit check with a credit bureau. If there’s a credit freeze in place, then it’s harder to obtain the loan.

But placing a credit freeze can be cumbersome, time-consuming, and costly. The process can also vary across states. It can be an expensive time-suck if a consumer wants to place a freeze across all credit bureaus and for all family members.

Fortunately, California now has an opportunity to dramatically streamline the credit freeze process for its residents, thanks to a state bill introduced by Sen. Jerry Hill, S.B. 823. EFF is proud to support it.

The bill will allow Californians to place, temporarily lift, and remove credit freezes easily and at no charge. Credit reporting agencies will be required to carry out the request in 15 minutes or less if the consumer uses the company’s website or mobile app.

The response time for written requests has been cut as well from three days to just 24 hours. Additionally, credit reporting agencies must offer consumers the option of passing along credit freeze requests to other credit reporting agencies, saving Californians time and reducing the likelihood of the misuse of their information. 

You can read our support letter for the bill here.

Free and convenient credit freezes are becoming even more important as many consumer credit reporting agencies are pushing their inferior “credit lock” products. These products don’t offer the same protections built into credit freezes by law, and to use some of them, consumers have to agree to have their personal information be used for targeted ads.

The bill has passed the California Senate and will soon be heading to the Assembly for a vote. EFF endorses this effort to empower consumers to protect their sensitive information.

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