The South Carolina data breach that affected 3.6 million consumers is more extensive than originally announced. On Wednesday October 31, state updated their breach announcement with 657,000 businesses also affected. The update also included 620,000 phone calls to Experian by consumers seeking breach information, and about 418,000 consumers have signed up for one year of free Experian ProtectMyID service.
The State also expanded the assistance it is providing both businesses and individuals affected by the breach. Starting today, Friday, South Carolina offers for free to businesses that have filed a state tax return since 1998 the CreditAlert services from Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corporation. CreditAlert will notify business customers of changes to their business credit file, such as a business address change, or a company officer change. Business owners can visit www.dandb.com/sc/ or call CreditAlert customer service toll free at 1-800-279-9881.
The state is also offering to affected South Carolina businesses the Business Credit Advantage from Experian, which provides unlimited access to a company’s business credit report and score. Interested businesses can sign up for Business Credit Advantage at www.smartbusinessreports.com/SouthCarolina. Businesseshave until December 1, 2012 to sign up.
The state also announced expanded assistance for individuals. Free fraud resolution services are extended past one year, and individuals with children can sign up for the "Family Secure Plan" to protect the Social Security numbers and sensitive personal information of minors and children also exposed/stolen during the data breach. Consumers have until January 31, 2013 to sign up.
The fact that businesses were also found to have been impacted by the breach, suggests that the breach inivestigaton is ongoing: determining the entitites affected, the data elements stolen, and how the unauthorized access and theft was performed technically. As reported by The State:
"Like other S.C. taxpayers, state businesses will be able to get free credit monitoring. But companies will get longer coverage. Businesses that have filed state taxes since 1998 can sign up for lifetime record monitoring from Experian starting [Thursday] and Dun & Bradstreet starting Friday. Consumers can get one year of monitoring and insurance from Experian, paid for by the state."
Why the longer coverage for businesses? The threat to both from identity criminals does not magically end after one year. Of course, businesses have more money, on average, than individuals. I look forward to hearing more from the state about why they chose to give businesses longer coverage for free. It suggests that the state has not finished improving its data security methods and systems.
If you are new to the issue of identity theft and fraud, then the alert services and credit monitoring service will likely help you get started and learn how to protect your sensitive personal information. However, it won't stop all identity fraud, so the value is in the fraud resolution services.
Are you a South Carolina resident or business owner? We'd like to hear about your experiences with the ProtectMyID, CreditAlert, or Business Credit Advantage services.