How do you know if you are a victim of identity theft?
South Carolina taxpayers whose personal information was stolen from the state’s tax agency in 2012 no longer are eligible for credit protection paid for by the state.
That’s because state lawmakers decided not to continue paying for free credit monitoring, a benefit that nearly a quarter-million S.C. taxpayers were taking advantage of up until the state’s contract for the services ran out Wednesday.
A spokesperson for the S.C. Department of Revenue confirmed that the services ended October 31.
There were 221,347 people enrolled at the time, said Ashley Thomas with DOR. In order for the protection to continue, state leaders would need to include money for the program in the state budget and negotiate a new contract, she said.
The change came as a surprise to Buddy Beard of North Charleston, who told The State he received an email notifying him his subscription for credit monitoring had been canceled.
“I don’t blame them, but I wish we would have had more notice,” Beard said, adding that he wants the state to continue paying for the protection, aimed at preventing South Carolinians from becoming victims of identity theft or financial fraud.
Beard monitors his own credit along with his mother’s and her husband’s, but he doesn’t think the three of them — all retirees living on fixed incomes — will pay for the monitoring themselves.
“It’s just one more thing” to pay for, he said.
State Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said the Revenue Department’s budget request did not include money to continue the credit monitoring program. Leatherman chairs the Senate’s powerful state-budget writing committee.
“Unless somebody comes to (Senate) Finance and makes a request ... I don’t know how we’d be supposed to know that,” he said.
South Carolina leaders agreed to pay for credit monitoring for victims of a data breach that struck the S.C. Department of Revenue in 2012. At the time, then-S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said victims would receive lifetime credit fraud resolution from the state.
In the breach, hackers stole the personal and financial information of about six million S.C. businesses, taxpayers and their dependents on tax returns dating back to 1998.
Initially, about 1.5 million people signed up for the protections the first year the service was offered. But that number fell dramatically to about 220,000. The five-year contract with CSID to provide the protections expired Wednesday.
The initial contract in 2012 was $12 million for the year, but each year after was about $1.2 million.
Last year, credit-reporting giant Equifax was hacked, affecting about 143 million people in the United States. The breach was just one of several in the last decades that also include Yahoo, Target and Home Depot.