You’ve been hacked, now what?
After a week of questions raised, frustrations running rampant and information leaked out as it has become available, the picture has become more clear on what happened and what residents should do following last week’s S.C. Department of Revenue breach.
Up to 3.6 million returns from as far back as 1998 may have been compromised by the international hacker, who likely penetrated the Department of Revenue’s system a month before the breach was detected by the U.S. Secret Service.
Anyone who has filed a tax return in South Carolina since 1998 is urged to call or go online and sign up for free credit monitoring by Experian by the Jan. 31, 2013, deadline.
The process can be a bit tedious to some, but Gov. Nikki Haley has urged residents not to feel rushed to sign up. The protection is retroactive through the entire time residents have been filing S.C. tax returns.
“People have to do this themselves,” Haley said in a Wednesday press conference, while adding her office will contact all agencies to ask for help informing the public. “This is an issue of personal responsibility.”
There are two ways to sign up for monitoring, either by calling or getting on a computer. For those wishing to call, dial (866) 578-5422, where you will enroll in a customer protection service. The call center is open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Haley said in a Tuesday press conference that the wait time on the call is down to 10 minutes, and the process it takes to sign up is roughly nine minutes. There are 300 assigned employees working the call center.
For those wishing to bypass the call, there is an online service available by visiting www.protectmyid.com/scdor.
Enter the code SCDOR123 when prompted, and then click the button that says “Click to redeem your activation code” instead of hitting “enter.”
After announcing earlier in the week that businesses may have been compromised as well, Haley said during the Wednesday conference that they estimate 657,000 businesses have been compromised and that a website run with the help of Dunham-Bradstreet will be up on Friday and provide protection at no cost as well.
Complaints about the process to sign up for the coverage have come from across the state, and local elected officials have begun to take notice.
S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, said he has received about 50 emails, and has taken it upon himself to send out a FAQ press release to help those with concerns. Those interested in the email can request it by emailing email@example.com.
“I believe, from all of my observations, the state is doing a good job,” Taylor said. “It’s our obligation as government to protect the people.”
S.C. Rep. Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, however, voiced his concern about what Gov. Haley and the state have offered to residents.
“I’m not sure it is enough because we want to be protected beyond a shadow of a doubt,” Clyburn said about the one-year protection. “There’s a great deal of legitimate concern. What’s most important to the constituents that I’ve heard from is their concern for their ID protection. I don’t think (the state) can overemphasize that we’re going to protected and that it’s not going to happen again.”
“I hope the state actually will step in,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. “First of all, to make sure there’s no further ID theft issues, but also to cover credit monitoring for everyone, whether they call in or not ... additionally to have credit insurance, too.”
Questions have also arisen about the credit protection deal worked out between the state and Experian, what the coverage entails and how the state plans on paying the $12 million cost.
As far as paying for the expense the state will incur, which will have to go through legislation, Taylor said he has not heard how it will work.
“I, too, am eager to learn how they plan to fund that,” Taylor said. “I have not been approached or seen anything.”
Haley said she believes the money will have to come from the General Assembly, and Clyburn acknowledged, “we’re going to have to pull money from the reserve, because it needs to be done.”
In a Monday press conference, S.C. State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said they will not know who has been affected by the breach for weeks, so everyone who has filed taxes in the state since 1998 is urged to sign up for the protection.
“It could take months to find out who was in the batch,” said Haley on Wednesday.
While the state is relying on the media to notify the public, there are steps in place to notify groups such as military members overseas and minors. Haley said the state is working with the Department of Defense to contact all military members that may be affected.
For minors, when a parent signs up for the protection, they should receive a letter or email within a couple of weeks notifying them that Experian has found minors as dependents on their tax information and will cover those listed or who have been claimed as dependents.
According to releases from Haley’s office, “Experian’s ProtectMyID Alert is designed to detect, protect and resolve potential identity theft, and includes daily monitoring of all three credit bureaus. The alerts and daily monitoring services are provided for one year, and consumers will continue to have access to fraud resolution agents and services beyond the first year. Complimentary 12-month ProtectMyID memberships available to South Carolina taxpayers affected by the DOR information security breach include:
— Credit Report: A free copy of your Experian credit report.
— Daily 3 Bureau Credit Monitoring: Alerts you of suspicious activity including new inquiries, newly opened accounts, delinquencies, or medical collections found on your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion credit reports.
— Identity Theft Resolution: If you have been a victim of identity theft, you will be assigned a dedicated, U.S.-based Experian Identity Theft Resolution Agent who will walk you through the fraud resolution process, from start to finish.
— ExtendCARE: Full access to the same personalized assistance from a highly-trained Fraud Resolution Agent even after your initial ProtectMyID membership expires.
— $1 Million Identity Theft Insurance: As a ProtectMyID member, you are immediately covered by a $1 million insurance policy that can help you cover certain costs including, lost wages, private investigator fees, and unauthorized electronic fund transfers.
Last Friday, Haley announced the S.C. Department of Revenue became the latest in a long line of victims to cyber hacking.
In one of the worst cases yet, roughly 3.6 million South Carolina taxpayers were affected, having their tax return information and in some cases credit card numbers, stolen.
Immediately following the news, the DOR website provided a link on its home page for every South Carolina resident to access and sign up for a year of free credit monitoring, paid for by the state. Haley said during a news conference Monday that the state has negotiated with the credit monitoring agency for a price of $12 million for a year’s worth of credit monitoring for residents.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Haley announced that roughly 620,000 people have called in to the center, but only about 418,000 have enrolled in the credit protection service.