LegislatureNews

Equifax hack inspires Colorado clampdown on credit reports

Author: Joey Bunch - February 8, 2018 - Updated: February 12, 2018

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EquifaxEquifax Inc. is a consumer credit reporting agency at the center of a data breach scandal. It is considered one of the three largest American credit agencies along with Experian and TransUnion. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Colorado lawmakers began laying the bricks of a firewall for consumers who might be victims of identity theft as a result of such breaches as the Equifax hack last year. They started with children and at-risk adults.

Most children don’t have credit histories, and often their clean credit is used in “family fraud,” by someone who knows the child or at-risk adult

The State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee voted 7-2 to pass House Bill 1233, sponsored by House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Republican Rep. Polly Lawrence.

“Securing personal information is a growing priority for adults,” parent Jessica Duke told the committee. “And it should be for children, too.”

Reps. Tim Leonard, R-Evergreen, and Stephen Humphrey, R-Severance, voted against the bill “for today,” because they want to be sure the legislation doesn’t create a credit report for a child simply by a parent asking the credit reporting agency if one exists.

The bill appears broadly supported, however.

The legislative effort this session is driven by the last year’s Equifax data breach. Hackers gained access to 145 million Americans’ Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses, a trove for identity thieves to create phony credit accounts. At least four bills are expected this session, in response.

The Duran-Lawrence bill would allow parents or guardians to freeze, at no charge, credit reports opened in the name of a child 16 and younger or an at-risk adult.  Children’s Social Security numbers can be stolen from schools, doctor’s offices or even cell phone accounts.

“This bill gives parents a lock and a key for their children and dependants’ credit,” said Danny Katz, director of the Colorado consumer advocacy group CoPIRG. “Most importantly that lock and key are free of charge. Parents and guardians should not have to pay to protect their children and dependants from problems they didn’t create.”

Equifax already is waiving any fees to place a credit freeze on its credit reports until June 30.

Rich Jones of the Denver-based Bell Policy Center was pleased to see the bill includes older Coloradans, who have a designated financial guardian.

“We think given the aging of our population here in Colorado, a growing number of people are going to need some of that protection,” Jones said.

Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, sought to give consumers more protection over their data by requiring consent. He cited the power and, clearly, the vulnerability of bureaus such as Equifax. House Bill 1063 wasn’t voted on Wednesday, as Williams sought more time to amend it.

A half-dozen opponents said it was too broadly written and would create unintended consequences, including making it harder to do employee background checks and impeding earnest consumers’ ability to get credit.

“Our concern is the consumers who have the most to hide will hide the most,” Eric Ellman of the Consumer Data Industry Association told the committee.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.