U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Friday she has begun an investigation into Equifax's massive data breach and, along with 11 other Democratic senators, will introduce a bill to give consumers the ability to freeze their credit for free.
Warren, who has built a reputation as a champion of consumers and often challenges the finance industry, also wrote letters to Equifax and its rival credit monitoring agencies TransUnion and Experian, federal regulators, and the Government Accountability Office for information to see if new federal legislation was needed to protect consumers.
"I am troubled by this attack — described as 'one of the largest risks to personally sensitive information in recent years' — and by the fact that it represents the third recent instance of a data breach of Equifax or its subsidiaries that has endangered American's personal information," she wrote in a letter to Equifax chairman and chief executive Richard Smith.
Warren, the top Democrat on the Senate Subcommittee for Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, said the proposed bill would stop companies like Equifax from charging consumers for freezing and unfreezing access to their credit files. A credit freeze restricts access to an individual's credit report, which can stop account fraud when thieves apply for credit using another person's information.
Equifax, which creates individual credit reports used by lenders to assess a consumer's creditworthiness, has come under intense pressure from senators and members of the House in recent days for what has been described as a slow, inadequate and confusing response to the hack.
Investors have dumped its stock as a result, driving it down 32 percent since the company disclosed the hack on Sept. 7.