Equifax data breach: 3 things Congress must do to protect consumers

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Equifax Inc.
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After the Equifax data breach exposed the personal information of 143 million Americans, money expert Clark Howard has called on Congress to take action to protect consumers.

He says lobbyists are the only ones who have the ear of our lawmakers right now, but that has to change.

“If we’re going to be a true free enterprise country, and we the American people are going to call the shots, you need to start listening to us and our needs instead of those of the people that line your pockets,” Clark said during a Facebook live with WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Team Clark has heard from many people who are understandably frustrated that the Equifax hack has put sensitive information — such as names, birth dates, addresses and Social Security numbers — in the hands of criminals.

Equifax’s initial response to the crisis on September 7, along with its glitchy website, has only made consumers more furious.

RELATED: 5 things to expect when you freeze your credit

Clark’s take: What Congress should do about Equifax

When asked about the repercussions of the Equifax data breach, Clark said there are three things lawmakers on Capitol Hill need to do for consumers:

1. Give us control of our information: “Equifax, TransUnion and Experian collect information on us without our permission and many times without our knowledge. We should have the right to control what information they have on us and how they use it.”

2. Free credit freezes for life: “We should be given the control of being able to freeze our credit when we wish, thaw it when we wish — at no cost.”

3. Right to be forgotten: “We should have something the Europeans have, which is called the “right to be forgotten.” In Europe, when somebody is collecting a dossier on you, you’re allowed to tell them they can’t, and they have to erase all the information in the database they have on you.”

RELATED: The Consumers Union is calling on Equifax to take these 7 steps immediately

How to protect your identity: Take these 2 steps

While we wait to see what, if any, action Congress will take on this matter, there are two things that you can do right away to protect yourself from identity fraud.

1. Sign up for Credit Karma’s free credit monitoring

Go to CreditKarma.com to sign up for a free account and you’ll get access to free credit monitoring. If they notice any suspicious activity, you’ll get an alert. Plus, Credit Karma also gives you free access to your credit scores and reports, as well as tips on what factors are impacting your credit.

2. Freeze your credit with all three main credit bureaus 

By freezing your credit files, you can prevent criminals from using your information to wreak havoc on your financial life. Even if your info was not exposed by the Equifax hack, this is the best way to protect your identity and your money.

Clark froze his credit for the first time more than a decade ago and has only had to temporarily lift the freeze a handful of times. Get started with his step-by-step Credit Freeze Guide.

RELATED: Credit Freeze Guide: The best way to protect yourself against identity theft

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Mike Timmermann About the author:
Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, Save on Almost Everything.
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