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Schumer calls for emergency alert system for identity theft

June 23, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Senator Charles Schumer says credit agencies should be doing more to protect consumers from identity theft. Eagle file photo by Bill Kotsatos

In the wake of major data breaches at nationwide chain stores, government agencies, banks and hospitals, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer said he has come up with a plan to alert consumers quickly so that they can take action to protect themselves from identity theft.

Under Schumer’s plan, the country’s three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and Transunion — would issue a “credit inquiry alert” that would immediately notify consumers whenever access to their credit is requested.

The alert system would be valuable, according to Schumer, because it would inform a consumer in real time when someone tries to open a new line of credit or a new account in their name using their personal information.

Schumer called on the three credit bureau agencies of to set up a notification system to alert consumers whenever access to their credit is requested.

Currently, no such rapid alert system exists.

“Despite widespread hacking and identity theft across the country, consumers are not notified when access to their credit is requested to create a new account. Instead, consumers are often in the dark until their credit is drained or their credit score has tanked,” Schumer said in a statement.

Schumer said his plan would allow consumers to freeze their credit at the moment unauthorized access to their credit is requested, before new purchases are made or before access to credit turns into costly fraud.

Two of the ways hackers drain the credit and lower the credit score of a consumer is by opening a line of credit in someone’s name or setting up an entirely new account, unknown to the consumer.    

“Simply put, a ‘credit inquiry alert’ would give consumers a heads up to freeze his or her credit and put a halt to the problematic, and possibly fraudulent activity, before it’s too late,” Schumer said. 

Schumer pointed to a number of cyber hackings in the U.S. that involved personally identifiable information, including Social Security numbers. The federal Office of Personnel Management was hacked into in December. The stolen files contained personal data on over four million current and former federal employees and included birthdates, addresses, pension information and possibly even Social Security numbers. There was also a cyber-breach at the Internal Revenue Service that included the tax returns of more than 100,000 individuals.

Schumer has written to the three national credit reporting bureaus to request that they implement his plan.

“The most frightening thing to many people is that they have no idea whether they have been the victim of an attack until it’s too late.  Too many people have faced the reality of learning that someone else has opened new lines of credit in their names only once their score has already been run into the ground,” Schumer wrote in his letter. 

“Individuals know when they have authorized a query of their credit file, for example when they apply for a new loan or to rent an apartment.  Therefore, they will also know if a query of their file is not authorized, and therefore a likely sign of criminal activity.  Such notification will allow a consumer to freeze his credit and put a halt to the problematic behavior before it is too late,” Schumer wrote.

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