April 18, 2019

Statement from Michael Festa, State Director of AARP Massachusetts

Thanking Governor Baker for Passage of Consumer Protection Bill Regarding H.B. 4806: An Act Relative to Consumer Protection from Security Breaches

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“AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. On behalf of the more than 800,000 members in the Commonwealth, we thank Governor Baker for signing into law House Bill No. 4806 - An Act Relative to Consumer Protection from Security Breaches.

This law, which gives consumers control of their credit reports by allowing them to freeze and unfreeze their credit without paying fees to credit reporting agencies, is an important step in ensuring that Massachusetts consumers are protected from identity theft.

We appreciate the Massachusetts General Court taking additional steps to strengthen last year’s action by the federal government related to security breaches. The bill was sponsored by Senator Barbara L’Italien (Andover) and Representative Jennifer Benson (Lunenburg). We thank the sponsors and six members of the conference committee; Representatives Tacky Chan (Quincy), Daniel Hunt (Dorchester), Randy Hunt (Sandwich) and Senators Barbara L’Italien (Andover), John Kennan (Quincy), Ryan Fattman (Webster) for their efforts to help the Commonwealth’s consumers.

With more access to credit due to their longer careers and higher incomes, older adults are the most common targets of identity theft nationwide. Individuals age 50-59 filed more than 7,200 complaints of identity theft in Massachusetts alone in 2017, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

With credit reporting firm Equifax revealing that hackers stole financial and consumer data on more than 143 million customers in the U.S., including at least three million residents of the Commonwealth, it’s quite possible that the personal information — including birth date, Social Security number, driver’s license number and address of many of us has fallen into the hands of criminals.

A security freeze allows an individual to voluntarily restrict access to their credit report so that new lines of credit cannot be opened. Enacting such a freeze can make it more difficult for criminals to steal an identity and open up new credit accounts or loans in someone else’s name. A credit report security freeze does not affect a person’s credit score, and can be removed at any time.

This new law helps to ensure consumers in Massachusetts don’t have to pay to control access to their credit reports.

We thank Governor Baker for signing this important bill into law.”

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