Unfortunately, credit breaches have become routine with major companies. Large repositories of information such as Anthem in 2015 and Equifax in 2017 (which alone involved over 143 million people) have suffered data breaches, along with many other small and large companies.  Identity theft continues to be a major problem and a major concern for many of us.

If you have been a victim of such a breach, one of the risks is that the hackers will use your data to steal your identity and gain access to your credit file at the major credit bureaus (also known as credit reporting agencies or credit rating agencies).  With the credit information, the hackers could then open new credit and loan accounts in your name and ruin your credit, as well as your life as you know it.  If you think you have been a victim of identity theft, or just want to be careful, one way to help protect yourself is to place a freeze on your credit file.  A credit freeze is offered by all three major United States credit reporting agencies, and acts, as the name implies, to prevent access to your credit report, which makes it much more difficult for someone who stole your personal information to improperly open an account in your name.  Further information from the Federal Trade Commission regarding credit freezes can be found HERE.

While placing a freeze on your credit file has been an option offered by the major credit bureaus, until recently they also charged a fee to do so, unless the consumer could demonstrate that they were the victim of identity theft.  They would also charge another fee to lift the freeze.  Under a Connecticut law effective October 1, 2018, the credit bureaus are required to provide the freeze for free, and also are prohibited from charging to lift the freeze, in all circumstances (Read More Here).  The law also requires that the credit bureau place the freeze as soon as practicable, but no later than five business days after a request, and also that the freeze be lifted within three business days of a request.  These changes in Connecticut law are in line with a recent federal law change which also makes credit freezes free.

The new law also expanded the obligations of companies doing business in Connecticut if the company has experienced a data breach of consumer personal information to third parties.  The existing law requires that companies that have had a data breach provide notice to those affected.  Under the new law, the definition of “personal information” has been broadened to expand the circumstances that require such reporting.  In addition, affected companies will now need to offer theft prevention and credit monitoring services free of charge to those affected for a twenty-four month period, up from the previous twelve months.

Consumers should always remain vigilant in protecting their credit histories, especially after potentially suffering identity theft.  These changes in Connecticut law should help provide some additional protection for consumers.

Keep in mind that you do not need to have suffered identity theft to freeze your credit. As indicated by Attorney Nobleman in a previous blog, SCAMS & IDENTITY THEFT: How To Protect Yourself, the freeze can be used as a preventative tool anytime, although it will require you to lift the freeze every time you apply for credit.

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