ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. — Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday that an investigation into the hacking of millions of state tax returns is almost complete and she hopes to report to South Carolinians next week on what happened.
Haley, speaking to reporters after remarks to the state Chamber of Commerce, said the forensic investigation was about 95 percent complete.
“Everything we are being told now is that there is nothing that could have been done that would have prevented this,” she said. “I am not prepared to tell you that because as long as 5 percent is out, we don’t know the whole story.”
She added: “I want to make sure the whole story is told. I want to make sure I know what happened, how it happened, if there was anything that could have been done.
The security breach compromised both Social Security numbers and
tens of thousands of credit card numbers.
Officials have said as many as 3.6 million tax returns dating back to 1998 might have been compromised.
Haley said Thursday that number might be an overestimate, but out of an abundance of caution, officials wanted all taxpayers who filed during that period to sign up for credit monitoring.
“That’s us being overly cautious. That is not saying someone got a
hold of everything from 1998 forward. That’s me saying I want to make sure
we have everybody covered,” Haley said.
The Haley administration has been criticized by some state lawmakers for not letting the public know more quickly that the tax returns had been hacked.
State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said at a news conference last month that state officials were made aware of the problem by the Secret Service on Oct. 10 and that the hacker might have gotten into the files, stored in a computer in Columbia, as early as late August. State officials waited 16 days after they learned of the breach to make it public.
“Chief Keel has made it very clear that the waiting was based on what the Secret Service told us and what he told us and the situation would have been a lot worse if we had not let them do their jobs,” Haley said Thursday.
Officials have said the delay was so investigators could reach certain benchmarks in their probe.