South Carolina’s revenue chief admits he was surprised when the firm that had been offering free credit protection for victims of last year’s Department of Revenue (SCDOR) hacking began sending emails saying those victims needed to pay to renew the service after October 24.
Experian offered a price of $11.88 for those on the program to renew their credit monitoring for another year (a steep discount from what the company normally charges for similar services).
However, the email did not mention that South Carolina was negotiating a new contract with other companies to continue offering the service for free once Experian’s current deal expires next month.
“We were caught off-guard,” SCDOR director Bill Blume told South Carolina Radio Network. “They’re a private company… But I was disappointed with some of the misinformation that they let out.”
Meanwhile, Experian announced Wednesday that it would allow those hacking victims who had unknowingly signed up for renewal to cancel that service. A person can cancel at no charge before the new protection begins on October 24. You can call Experian at 1-866-584-9479 for more information.
Blume said the state Budget & Control Board is trying to award a new $10 million contract by next week, possibly as early as Monday. Experian has already decided that it will not re-bid for a second year. A spokesman said the company felt the $10 million was not enough to meet South Carolina’s requirements.
Blume asked South Carolinians to wait before deciding to renew with Experian. “We want to encourage them to at least look at the free credit monitoring and identity theft (protection),” he said Wednesday. “I’m confident what we’ll have is more robust than what we had with Experian.”
The revenue director said his agency would conduct a “huge public campaign” to notify South Carolinians about the changes. However, he said the state is still negotiating what steps the 1.5 million taxpayers who are currently enrolled would have to take to renew their coverage for free.
Meanwhile, state Senate Democrats are questioning why Experian was able to send out the emails before South Carolina was ready. In a statement, State Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) slammed Gov. Nikki Haley, who he is running to replace next year.
“As if having their personal tax information stolen and being at risk for the rest of their lives wasn’t enough, South Carolinians now have to deal with solicitation emails from the company Nikki Haley and her team hand-picked,” Sheheen said.
Haley’s spokesman accused the Democrat of politicizing the issue. “Only a lifelong trial lawyer who has made his living suing businesses would think he can tell a private company that it can or cannot reach out to those it is providing services to,” Doug Mayer told The State newspaper.