Businesses respond to news of potential exposure
When Michael Burkhold Jr. heard last week that a hack into the South Carolina Department of Revenue had exposed him to potential identity theft, he registered for the state-sponsored Experian ProtectMyID service.
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Training: Charleston security analyst John Stengel will host identity-theft protection training sessions on Wednesday. The sessions will cover the signs of identity theft, steps you can take to reduce your risk, protecting children’s identity and free tools to better protect yourself. The sessions will be at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Spring Hill Suites in North Charleston.
Symposium: S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis will hold a symposium on fraud detection and prevention in government programs from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 13 in the Lexington room of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Loftis said the event was being planned before the database breach was announced by the state last week. He said state agencies, universities and local governments will be invited to the symposium.
When news broke this week that not only individual but also business tax returns were compromised, Burkhold’s thoughts turned to Equiscript, his Charleston-based prescription-management company.
ENROLL IN FREE CREDIT MONITORING AND IDENTITY PROTECTION: The state is paying for taxpayers to receive identity-protection services from Experian for one year. South Carolinians can enroll either online or by phone. To register by phone, call 1-866-578-5422. The hotline is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays. To register online, go to protectmyid.com/scdor and use the code “SCDOR123.” At some point, that generic code may not work, and residents will have to call the hotline number.
PLACE A SECURITY FREEZE ON CREDIT RECORDS, OR GET ADVICE: Call the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-922-1594 weekdays during business hours to get advice or to ask that your credit records be frozen at no charge. Or go to http://bit.ly/TL6iD6 for more information.
REGULARLY CHECK YOUR CREDIT REPORT: Get free credit reports from the three largest credit-rating organizations by going to annualcreditreport.com.
PLACE A FRAUD ALERT ON YOUR CREDIT FILE: Residents can request “fraud alerts” to let potential creditors know they may be a victim of identity theft. Call either Equifax at 1-800-685-1111, Experian at 1-888-397-3742 or TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289.
FOR BUSINESSES: Starting at 8 a.m. Friday, Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. will offer its CreditAlert credit-monitoring product for free to South Carolina businesses that have filed a tax return since 1998. Visit DandB.com/SC or call customer service toll free at 800-279-9881.
In addition to the exposed business checking account, Burkhold is concerned that his and his partner’s Social Security numbers were on those tax returns, and that his employees’ Social Security numbers were submitted for withholding purposes.
So he has asked his in-house accountant to enroll Equiscript in the free credit-monitoring service offered by Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. and to look into what else needs to be done to protect the company.
“Right now we’re just trying to figure out,” Burkhold said. “I don’t feel secure about any of it.”
Burkhold is one of thousands of South Carolina business owners coping with the news that they could be doubly victimized as a result of the massive hack announced Friday.
After some initial uncertainty, Gov. Nikki Haley revealed Wednesday that, in addition to 3.6 million individual taxpayers, some 587,000 business records are also at risk.
She seemed to downplay the risk to businesses, saying checking account routing numbers and employer identification numbers are essentially public information, before adding that Social Security numbers could be among the hacked data and strongly urging businesses to enroll in Dun & Bradstreet’s CreditAlert service.
“So what I can tell you is they got what is already public,” she said Wednesday. “But again I would recommend businesses take advantage of Dun & Bradstreet and sign up.”
Frank Knapp Jr., president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, appreciates the free service, but not the governor’s characterization of the exposure. It’s one thing to write a check to your doctor or a neighborhood business owner and another for “an international hacker thief” to surreptitiously swipe the information, he said.
“It’s not the same, and really I don’t understand why they need to give everybody a false sense of confidence,” said Knapp, who also owns a Columbia advertising agency.
Knapp is recommending the Experian and Dun & Bradstreet services and advising his organization’s 5,000 members close their checking accounts and open new ones.
Anja Stief, owner of Dish and Design Catering in Mount Pleasant, said she hasn’t gone that far yet, but she has instructed her accountant to start by changing the accounts’ passwords and signing up for the Dun & Bradstreet service.
“At this point I think that’s the smart thing to do,” Stief said. “We just need to protect ourselves.”
Jeff Meyer, president of J. Meyer Homes, a Mount Pleasant-based homebuilder responsible for neighborhoods in Ladson and Hollywood, hasn’t taken any protective action yet.
“We monitor our financial accounts, so I haven’t hit the panic button about it,” he said, adding that he is more concerned about “other aspects of the ecomony.”
“I’m more worried about whether people can get qualified for a mortgage,” he said.
Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_brendan.