Vermonters looking for change after Equifax breach

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Were you one of the millions of Americans affected by the Equifax data breach?

Tuesday, Vermont state leaders brainstormed ways to keep people's sensitive information safe.

No one wants their private data stolen.

"It affects a lot of Vermonters,” said Mallory Curtis, a Burlington resident. “It affects a lot of my relatives, a lot of my friends, so it's just a good thing to stay up-to-date on."

So what should the state do to protect residents from hackers and security breaches? Legislators turned to residents for ideas.

“The state should act swiftly to prohibit credit agencies from charging fees to consumers who elect to enact a security freeze on their credit history," said Zachary Tomanelli of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

The conversation in Burlington was sparked by the Equifax breach a few months ago. 145 million Americans, including 240,000 Vermonters, were affected.

Vermont's Attorney General's Office says this breach prompted the largest number of questions in the least amount of time that it had ever received.

Adriana Speckmaier took some of those phone calls at the Consumer Assistance Program. She said, “I can't believe this has happened. No one told us. It took this long for anybody to give this information. What do we do now?"

The Attorney General's Office says people should be taking the following steps to protect themselves:
-Put a security freeze on all credit bureaus.
-Add a fraud alert to your credit files.
-Review your credit card statements every month.

"We have one of the strictest security breach notice acts in the country,” said Ryan Kriger, a Vermont Assistant Attorney General. “We have one of the first notice acts that require notice directly to the Attorney General. We require it within 14 days."

The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee says it wants to do more.

Rep. William Botzow tells us lawmakers have already begun working on bills relating to data privacy. "Rise to our prime to duty of the safety, protection and well-being of Vermonters,” he said.

On the national level, Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the Consumer Privacy Protection Act. It would add requirements to prevent breaches from happening and to quickly alert people when they do.