COLUMBIA — The two credit monitoring services covered by South Carolina’s $12 million contract with Experian differ in what’s accessible at no cost to enrollees, and whether the help extends beyond the state-paid first year.
Experian began notifying residents last week of the availability of Family Secure, designed to alert parents if a credit file pops up in their child’s name. It’s offered on top of the ProtectMyID service offered to South Carolina’s adult taxpayers.
However, despite assurances from state officials, Family Secure doesn’t give children under 18 the lifetime of over-the-phone fraud resolution assistance extended to adults, an Experian spokesman said Monday.
“They are two similar products – with differences – that are designed for specific purposes and are not often required to be used in the same breach. In this case, they were,” said Greg Young.
Gov. Nikki Haley negotiated the $12 million flat-fee contract after a hacker stole the electronically sent tax filings of 3.8 million residents and 700,000 businesses. Stolen data included the unencrypted Social Security numbers of 1.9 million dependents on parents’ returns.
Haley has been touting the lifetime benefits of the Experian contract.
Under the contract, adults who sign up for ProtectMyID by Jan. 31 can call for advice of they become victims of identity theft, no matter when that occurs.
“Minors are protected as well for all the same services,” Haley told reporters Oct. 30. “What you will have is fraud resolution for life.” She’s repeatedly referred to it as a lifetime of assistance through the process.
The assistance does not protect against fraud but notifies people of possibly fraudulent activity on their accounts.
Revenue Director Jim Etter made the same assurance to senators that day.
“Are they going to protect all those kids a year or so old?” asked Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence. “Are all citizens going to be protected forever for $12 million?”
Calling Haley’s negotiation “quite an accomplishment,” Etter replied, “Yes, I can say that without any question at all.”
But details of Family Secure rolled out Friday contradict that.
If accounts are opened in a child’s name, the resolution assistance applies only to the year covered by the state. Parents who want to continue the service can pay $20 a month, Young said.
On the plus side for Family Secure, the enrolling parent can get unlimited, on-demand access to his or her Experian credit report and credit score, as well as a “score illustrator” with monthly analysis. That compares to a single free credit report available through ProtectMyID, which has been available to adult filers since Haley first announced the breach Oct. 26.
As of Monday, 906,000 taxpayers had signed up for ProtectMyID. More than 100,000 notices had gone out to them on the availability of Family Secure, Young said.
To be eligible for Family Secure, a parent or legal guardian must first enroll in ProtectMyID.
A parent can enroll all of his or her children. Only one parent can enroll. The deadline to do so is May 31.