COLUMBIA — Gov. Nikki Haley said Friday that she was a victim of identity theft about a decade ago, explaining her push to get people signed up for credit monitoring after the security breach at South Carolina’s revenue agency.
She said the theft caused her family years of exasperation and harassment from collection agencies. Her credit rating plummeted, causing her to spend more on car and home loans and her credit
card interest rates to go up.
“It was a 10-year nightmare. It’s the reason you’ve seen me be so passionate,” Haley said. “I don’t want anybody else to go through what we’d gone through. In all that time, people called and harassed and were hateful on the phone.”
Haley is urging residents to sign up for a state-paid service through Experian that provides a year of alerts to any newly opened account and lifetime of over-the-phone help to theft victims. That post-event assistance is especially valuable, she said.
“We didn’t have any sort of fraud resolution,” she said. Haley said her nightmare began when she checked the account of a dormant card and discovered a stranger’s name and out-of-state address. She said that after calling the company to remove the name, she was hit with a $16,000 credit card bill.
“Instead of helping us, they immediately started demanding payments and sent us to collections,” despite never producing signed receipts of purchases, she said. She still doesn’t know when the card’s address was changed, who did it or how long the thefts occurred.
Each time the debt was sold to a different bank, the harassment began anew.
The Haleys eventually hired an attorney, ending the calls a couple of years ago, she said.
She thought the ordeal was over, until she realized this week that the debt remains on her credit. The Haleys again had to explain the matter, in writing, as part of their home refinancing.
“I know people are looking for someone to blame,” she said of the Department of Revenue breach. “My first priority is I don’t want anybody to suffer.”
Haley was still dealing with the theft in 2008 when the Legislature passed a consumer protection law that allows residents, at no cost, to freeze and unfreeze their credit, which can be costly in other states. Haley said then she wished the law were in place five years earlier before her identity was stolen.