COLUMBIA (WIS) - After Friday's announcement of an international security breach that exposed 3.6 million South Carolinians personal information, officials with the Department of Consumer Affairs want consumers to know additional ways to protect themselves.
On Friday, state officials provided consumers with a number to a hotline that will allow those who have filed a South Carolina tax return since 1998 to sign up for one year of free credit monitoring through Consumerinfo.com. The number for the hotline is (866) 578-5422.
Since Friday, many consumers have said they have had trouble getting a call to go through to that number. While officials have urged consumers to keep trying, officials with the Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA) say, in addition, there are also state and federal ID theft resources that can be used to protect yourself in conjunction with the free credit monitoring.
The credit monitoring system offered by the state's Department of Revenue is a third party business that will monitor your account for red flags. Through the service, you'll have access to one credit report.
By also enacting a fraud alert, Carri Grube Lybarker, the Administrator with the SCDCA, says it allows you to get a free credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies and the alert will remain active for 90 days. "This notifies businesses who are trying to access [your] credit report that [that person] may have been a victim of identity theft, so they have to take extra steps to verify that it is in fact the consumer who is seeking the products or services," said Lybarker.
Lybarker says you only need to call one of the three major credit reporting agencies and they will notify the others.
By state law consumers can also enact a security freeze on their credit. A security freeze allows you to literally put your credit on lockdown which means no one can access your credit report without your approval. "When you put a security freeze on your credit report it denies access to anybody who's trying to access a new account or product or service where your credit report is needed," said Lybarker.
This means no new accounts can be opened unless you provide a pin number or request a thaw to your credit freeze. It only takes 15 minutes to gain access to your report once you have a requested a thaw.
While this resource is not free in all states, it is here in South Carolina. However, it takes a little bit of leg work. "You have to [request] it with each one of the three credit reporting agencies separately, which is a little bit different than the fraud alert," said Lybarker. "If it weren't free it could get costly and legislators wanted to make sure consumers had access to this." The legislation was passed back in 2008. Lybarker says it was meant to be used as a proactive measure, but can certainly be used a defensive measure, as well.
To set-up the free one-year credit monitoring system through the Dept. of Revenue call: (866) 578-5422.
To contact the three credit reporting agencies:
For more information from the Dept. of Consumer Affairs visit www.consumer.sc.gov or call (800) 922-1594.
Officials with the Department of Consumer Affairs say they get notification every time a breach affects more than 1,000 people in the state. They say that's happened more than 80 times over the past four years, and 20 times in the last year alone. Over the last four years, SCDCS officials say more than one million South Carolinians had their information stolen in some capacity.