By Seanna Adcox
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Taxpayers started signing up Thursday for a second year of credit monitoring the state is funding because of last year’s massive hacking of South Carolina’s tax collection agency.
The consumer protection services provided by CSIdentity Corp. are free to the millions of residents and business owners whose unencrypted personal data was stolen last September from the Department of Revenue’s computer servers.
South Carolina is paying CSID up to $8.5 million, depending on how many people sign up. By 5 p.m. Thursday, nearly 15,000 people had already done so, said Doug Mayer, the spokesman for Gov. Nikki Haley.
Company officials acknowledged some glitches. Some people attempting to enroll online encountered problems because information entered didn’t precisely match Department of Revenue records. Online error messages will be changed Thursday night to more clearly explain the problem and provide information on what to do next, said Bryan Hjelm, CSID’s vice president of marketing.
A technical glitch also had to be fixed for last names ending in “x,” and one of three call centers went offline Thursday morning, resulting in longer wait times. On average, callers were on hold Thursday for more than seven minutes, according to the company. The company didn’t specify how many people had problems.
Last fall’s hacking affected 6.4 million people and businesses listed on South Carolina income tax returns filed online between 1998 and 2012, including children. All are eligible for state-paid services through CSID.
The roughly 1.3 million affected taxpayers who live outside South Carolina are not able to enroll online yet. Starting on Nov. 4, letters will go out with codes they can use to register through the Web site, Hjelm said.
The state’s initial contract was with credit bureau giant Experian. Gov. Nikki Haley negotiated that $12 million contract last October as a no-bid, emergency situation. About 1.4 million people signed up for a year of credit monitoring under that contract. That year will expire for enrollees depending on when they signed up, starting Saturday and continuing through March. Enrollments will not transfer to the new company.
People can sign up with CSID as late as Oct. 1, 2014. But the state-paid services will end for everyone on Halloween of 2014 unless the Legislature funds a third year of monitoring in the 2014-15 budget, at a cost of $6.5 million.
Both Haley and Revenue Director Bill Blume encouraged taxpayers to take advantage of the services provided.