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    October 2017
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State of Hawaii to Introduce Bill for Free Credit Freezes

The State of Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) announced the office will propose legislation directing consumer credit agencies to provide security freezes at no cost to Hawaii residents. The measure will be introduced as part of the Governor’s Administration package during the next legislative session.

Recent events involving security breaches of databases containing sensitive identifying information, such as social security numbers and addresses, has shown that repositories of consumers’ personal information continue to be at a high risk of infiltration by identity thieves.  Although many consumers have taken proactive steps to protect their personal information by requesting consumer reporting agencies to place a security freeze on their credit reports, many have not done so due to the costs associated with obtaining a security freeze.

The purpose of the bill is to enhance consumer protections by allowing consumers to request a consumer reporting agency to place, lift, or remove a security freeze on their credit reports free of charge, considering recent events involving security breaches of databases containing consumer identifying information. Consumer reporting agencies are allowed by state law to charge a fee up to $5 for each request to place, lift, or remove a security freeze.

“Our actions are based on doing the right thing to protect Hawaii’s residents,” said Governor David Ige. “When a business is designed to profit off of managing the public’s personal information, they have a good faith duty to protect that information—not solely on behalf of their shareholders but equally on behalf of their customers. This did not happen and the public is now at risk.”

“Our citizens should have the right to freeze their credit files without cost and without unnecessary hassles. The breach involving Equifax has shown that we cannot rely solely on companies to safeguard our personal information.  By encouraging people to proactively protect themselves from becoming victims of a security breach this bill will help to reduce identity theft in Hawaii,” added Steve Levins, Executive Director of the Office of Consumer Protection.

Equifax disclosed earlier this month that it suffered a breach affecting at least 143 million Americans. Information compromised in the breach includes Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, names, dates of birth, credit card numbers and addresses—creating a perfect opportunity for impacted people to become victims of identity theft.

In announcing the breach, Equifax stated it would offer free credit monitoring to everyone. The company has set up a website where people can check whether their personal information potentially was affected by the breach: http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.

The Office of Consumer Protection has since announced an investigation into the massive data breach involving the consumer reporting agency.

In view of this breach the Office of Consumer Protection is urging consumers to seriously consider placing a credit freeze on their credit reports with all 3 consumer reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. More information on Equifax’s credit monitoring and a guide to initiate a security freeze is available at http://cca.hawaii.gov/ocp/equifax.

Additionally, the OCP states that consumers should:

  • Regularly request their free credit reports, inspect them closely, and promptly dispute any unauthorized accounts;
  • Inspect all financial account statements closely and promptly dispute any unauthorized charges;
  • Consider placing alerts on their financial accounts so their financial institution alerts them when money above a pre-designated amount is withdrawn;
  • Beware of potential phishing emails; don’t open any email messages or attachments from unknown senders and do not click on any unknown links. Fraudsters will frequently send coercive and misleading emails threatening account suspension or worse if sensitive information is not provided. Remember, businesses will never ask customers to verify account information via email. If in doubt, contact the business in question directly for verification and to report phishing emails; and
  • Be on the lookout for spoofed email addresses. Spoofed email addresses are those that make minor changes in the domain name, frequently changing the letter O to the number zero, or the lowercase letter l to the number one. Scrutinize all incoming email addresses to ensure that the sender is truly legitimate.

Consumers with questions regarding Equifax’s data breach are encouraged to contact Equifax at 866-447-7559.

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