TRENTON — In the wake of the security breach at Equifax, the top Democrat in the state Legislature wants a new state law prohibiting crediting-reporting agencies from charging fees to have security freezes lifted.

The data breach at Equifax was apparently massive, affecting 143 million people. Hackers had access from mid-May through July to names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses, plus some driver’s license numbers.

The Federal Trade Commission suggests that people consider placing a credit freeze on their files. That’s already free under New Jersey law. But lifting it costs $5 unless a person has been the victim of identity theft – and Senate President Stephen Sweeney said that should change.

“It prevents them from profiting when they make mistakes,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “And the other part of this bill is it ensures people have the rights to proceed legally against them.”

Equifax had included, but later removed, a clause in the free credit-reporting service it offered consumers for a year required consumers to give up the right to sue the company over the breach.

Sweeney acknowledges that the fee, at $5, isn’t much.

“Yeah, but still, why should they be profiting off of you?” Sweeney said. “It’s not a ton of money. It’s the principle of the issue.”

If that becomes law, New Jersey would become the fifth state without fees for either adding or lifting a security freeze, joining Indiana, Maine, North Carolina and South Carolina, according to a list maintained by the TransUnion credit-reporting agency.

Some of those states charge fees for lifting security freezes requested for people under 16.

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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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