South Carolina could be expanding the free identity theft protection that it offers, in response to the theft of millions of taxpayers' personal information from the Department of Revenue last year.
At the state Budget and Control Board meeting Wednesday morning, the board will discuss whether to direct the agency to get proposals from ID theft protection companies. The coverage would be for up to five years.
The companies will be asked for proposals that would automatically transfer people who've already signed up for the free year of credit monitoring that the state offered right after the hacking, if that's possible. They'll also be asked to come up with a way, if possible, to let the Department of Revenue enroll people who were affected by the hacking, instead of requiring them to sign up for themselves. One of the most common complaints from taxpayers after the hacking incident was that they shouldn't have to go to the trouble of enrolling in the credit monitoring service. If the state knew whose information was stolen, why not just protect those people?
Besides extending the coverage for up to five more years, ID theft protection does more to protect you than credit monitoring does, according to the state Department of Consumer Affairs.
Credit monitoring does just that: the company watches your credit report with the three credit reporting agencies for signs that someone has run a credit check on you, possibly so they can get a credit card in your name or take out a loan.
But a lot of the ways an identity thief will use your personal information is for things that won't show up on a credit report, because they don't require a credit check. For example, one of the most common uses for stolen identities is for someone to get government benefits.
State department of Consumer Affairs spokesperson Juliana Harris says of ID theft protection services, "They'll do more things than just the credit report monitoring. They could do things like place a freeze on your credit report, which would stop anybody from being to apply for new credit in your name. Also, a lot of them might check for non-credit type applications, like utilities and insurance, where sometimes a credit report isn't pulled. Also, they might troll Internet sites that are known to traffic stolen information, looking for your personal-identifying information. So they're more intensive than the credit report monitoring service."
The ID theft protection service would be free to taxpayers, but it will cost the state, and therefore taxpayers indirectly. The amount won't be known until the state gets proposals back from ID theft protection companies, if the Budget and Control Board decides to go ahead with the request for proposals.
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