Sunday is the deadline to get a free year of identity theft protection and credit monitoring, but millions of eligible South Carolina taxpayers and businesses have not signed up.
The state is paying for the ProtectMyID service from Experian, at a cost of $12 million, in response to the 2012 scandal in which computer hackers broke into the S.C. Department of Revenue computers.
Financial data involving 3.8 million individuals, 1.9 million of their dependents, and 699,000 businesses was compromised — tax return data, such as Social Security, bank account and credit card numbers, that was included in electronic filings.
As of Friday, nearly 1.4 million individuals had signed up for the credit monitoring service, as well as 10,500 businesses, the S.C. Department of Revenue said. That leaves 2.4 million individuals and 688,500 businesses that have not signed up.
“It’s not as many as you would think, considering the coverage it has gotten on the news, and the letters that have gone out,” said Juliana Harris, with the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs.
Harris also said the response has been much greater than what happened last year, when nearly a quarter-million people were offered similar credit monitoring services following a data breach at the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
“In that case, 17,000 enrolled out of about 250,000,” Harris said.
She said some reasons why many haven’t signed up could include that many South Carolina residents don’t have Internet service, some elderly residents distrust doing business online, and people who have called to sign up by phone have encountered lengthy waits on hold.
“I know everyone is doing the mad dash to sign up, now that the deadline is near,” Harrris said.
Revenue Department figures show that about 50,000 individuals have signed up during the past two weeks for ProtectMyID.
Few dependents have been enrolled in Experian’s companion service, Family Secure — just 40,000 out of 1.9 million — but the deadline to enroll dependents doesn’t arrive until May 31. Individuals must sign up for ProtectMyID and then wait to hear from Experian about signing up dependents.
The ProtectMyID service for individuals, Family Secure for dependents, and similar services for businesses are meant to provide some protection against identity theft and misuse of personal data.
For example, ProtectMyID alerts individuals if their credit report is accessed, because that’s an indication that a loan or new credit account is being opened in that person’s name.
Patty Coggins, 65, of Ladson, said she signed up for ProtectMyID online months ago and can’t imagine why others would not.
“I thought it was pretty simple,” she said. “I just followed the directions from one of the articles in the newspaper, went to the website, and entered the code.”
Coggins also took the extra step of reviewing her credit reports to check for errors, and then to be extra secure, she contacted each credit bureau and put a freeze on her credit report to prevent any accounts requiring a credit check from being opened in her name.
People who sign up for ProtectMyID will find that Experian offers additional services that come with fees, but those are not required. In order to review credit reports from all three major reporting agencies at no cost, which is what Coggins did, consumers can visit annualcreditreport.com, or call 877-322-8228.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.