S.C. credit monitoring company won't renew deal with state

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

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ROCK HILL, S.C. —

The company that has been providing credit monitoring to the people of South Carolina stands to make millions of dollars, even though the state will soon choose a new provider.

A year ago this month someone hacked into computers at South Carolina's Department of Revenue, exposing the personal information of millions of people.

The breach exposed the social security numbers of 3.6 million people, and 387,000 credit and debit card numbers, according to the governor's office.

Roughly 1 1/2 million people have since signed up for a year's worth of free credit monitoring

A company called Experian contracted with the state to provide that, but now the contract is ending, and won't be renewed. Experian now is urging those affected to pay to continue their services. The company sent out emails to customers stating that it will charge $12 to continue watching your credit for the upcoming year.

"I don't think it's proper for them to do that," said Rock Hill State Rep. Gary Simrill.

Simrill sits on the state budget committee. He said the state will continue free credit monitoring for next year, and consumers don't have to pay a dime.

He's concerned that Experian is telling customers they need to pay them, when they don't.

"The very group of people that were hired to monitor and help protect our citizens are now using that very information, and marketing it to South Carolinians, trying to get them to pay for something that the state is paying for," he said.

Channel 9 reporter Greg Suskin called Experian on Tuesday, because he also lives in South Carolina and was a victim of the security breach.

A customer service person said on the phone that the state was no longer doing anything, and signing up with Experian was the only way to insure continued credit monitoring.

Simrill said once the state enters a contract with a new provider, that service will once again, be free of charge.

Late Tuesday, the Department of Revenue itself issued a statement urging taxpayers to wait before signing on with Experian again.

The statement went on to say that officials expect to make a formal announcement next week about the company that will be chosen to replace Experian.

Channel 9 spoke with several people whose personal information was compromised in the 2012 DOR breach. They didn't sign up for credit monitoring, fearing that they be putting themselves at risk all over again, by giving out personal information.

Retha Cox said she didn't sign up for the service because she regularly checks her bank accounts.

"I didn't see any problems with my bank activities, so I didn't worry too much about it," she said.

Willie Thompson said he doesn't trust the credit monitoring firms, or the lawmakers in Columbia to protect him.

"I hate to even give any information, not even my email address, and I refuse to give anybody my social security number," Thompson said.

Simrill said the bottom line is, if you want to continue with Experian, and don't mind paying a few dollars you can.

However, you will keep receiving credit protection free, for at least another year, once that new company is chosen.

The state is currently negotiating with several other firms after Experian rejected a $10 million offer from the state to continue for another year.

Simrill said the state has until the end of the year to negotiate a new contract, and expects a seamless transition from one credit monitoring firm to another.

Lawmakers said it's not known how long the state will pay for credit monitoring because it must be approved each year, year by year.

The investigation into the security breach at DOR is still ongoing.