COLUMBIA, SC — As some South Carolina taxpayers, fearing their tax records have been hacked, complain about difficulties in getting access to the state’s newly created self-help system, state leaders plan a Monday morning update on the massive security breach.
Gov. Nikki Haley and SLED Chief Mark Keel have scheduled a 10.a.m. news conference at the State House. But an announcement from Haley’s spokesman Rob Godfrey gives no indication of which aspects for the invasion of privacy case they plan to address.
The governor’s office also had scheduled a conference call at the same time for legislators. Godfrey said Sunday they will adjust the briefing to either just before or just after the news conference.
Haley, Keel and other state and federal authorities on Friday disclosed that a foreign hacker or hackers had stolen 3.6 million Social Security numbers and 387,000 credit or debit card numbers from the S.C. Department of Revenue during a series of cyber attacks that date to Aug. 27.
None of the Social Security numbers were encrypted, Revenue Department director James Etter said. But most of the credit card numbers – except 16,000 – were encrypted.
State officials advised anyone who had filed a state tax return since 1998 to take steps to learn if their information had been misused by identity thieves.
The state laid out procedures that worried taxpayers should take to determine if their information was misused and/or to protect themselves:
• Call (866) 578-5422, a hot line, to be given an access code to a website where they could register for one year of free credit monitoring.
• A recording at the phone number provides a standard activation code (SCDOR123) that can be used at a web address: www.protectmyID.com/scdor.
• The Revenue Department said it would have more receptionists at its call center over the weekend to help with the flood of calls.
• The S.C. Consumer Affairs Department planned to add part-time staffers to answer phone calls during business hours starting today. Call (800) 922-1594 for advice or to request a freeze on your credit records. Privacy advocates say that is the surest way to block identity theft.
Despite those steps, many South Carolinians were frustrated with the state’s response over the weekend.
Many emailed or called The State newspaper and other media outlets to vent, though some said they were given assistance through the hot line and the website.
One woman complained she had trouble getting through to the web address that state officials provided. She decided to spend $35 to get a credit report to see if there was any unauthorized activity.
A man said he got repeated recorded messages at the hot line and the web address was recited too quickly for him to write it down. He wrote the newspaper saying that his biggest worry remains: “whether or not I am one of whose records were stolen.”
Godfrey said Sunday that more people manned phone banks as soon as state officials learned of the phone delays. “And the number of representatives has continued to increase over the weekend.”
By releasing the access code publicly, taxpayers should be able to speed the process of seeking credit protection, Godfrey said.
“If we need to take any further action to make sure our taxpayers are protected, we will do so – and do so swiftly,” the spokesman said.