MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Almost everyone with a Social Security number in South Carolina is looking for answers about why their information was obtained by hackers and what they can do to protect themselves.
WMBF News has heard your frustrations, and went directly to the Department of Consumer Affairs to get the answers you've been searching for.
Below we've listed the questions you've been asking and the solution we've received:
1. What is ProtectMyID.com:
You sign up, now what? This web site basically gives you guidance. It is in place to assist consumers through the process, but does not FIX it. YOU need to.
The BBB suggests you go through every tab and look through your entire credit history. You will see green checks where the site believes normal credit activity. The site will block out a gray section that they believe is suspicious. As the consumer, you will know better if there is a charge you are not responsible for. You then need to dispute it.
RETROACTIVE: This means you will be notified if there is any suspicious activity using your credit. It's basically a third party that monitors your activity and will contact you if anything is red flagged. Once that happens, it will help you file claims, work to dispute any charges. But will not do it automatically. Once again, people need to be proactive with this.
The Department of Consumer Affairs says you should assume you are affected and take the steps now to minimize the effect.
Though the site may not catch anything from before you register online, it will let you check all three credit agencies. However, you need to check your history from before the breach was made public.
The DOR (Department of Revenue) will contact you through email if you are at risk. The state does not know when this will happen, but you have until January 31st, 2013 to register online.
If the state determines you have been affected you will receive one free year of the credit monitoring service. If you are NOT affected, you can chose to cancel the service, or pay to continue it.
2. The site isn't working, the activation code isn't going through:
Consumer Affairs suggests people try again, close out of browser, or use a different web browser. WMBF tested different web browsers and Google Chrome was working the best for the activation code. Try typing it in all CAPS or entering it when Internet traffic is slow, like early in the morning.
You can also call: 1-866-578-5422.
Not getting through? The state says to have patience, or to call back. They say this is an unprecedented event, so they are working every day to get new kinks out.
3. Not being able to enter spouses, other family members over age of 18:
The last person that signed in needs to fully log out, close the web browser and re-open everything to sign in another person. You need to start from scratch for each individual.
4. Not being able to check children/members under 18:
The state is working on matching dependents with their parents. So an adult can register and wait to be contacted by the DOR.
Once they determine if your child's SSN is at risk, they will send you a separate site and steps on how to check your child.
In the mean time: you can ask any of the credit services (Experien, Equifax, TransUnion) to perform a manual search on your child's credit.
This can affect any minor who has had their SSN on parents' taxes, has opened up a bank/savings account, or has filed their own taxes.
For many cases, a minor will have a credit report for legitimate reasons (i.e. They have their own bank account.)
For other cases, if you're unable to sign up a minor on an automated site (like annualcreditreport.com) it may be because they have not been affected. HOWEVER – it doesn't mean they wont be affected in the future. This is why it is important to continue to monitor a minor's credit, no matter what age.
You can place a Fraud Alert on their credit, which results in a free credit report from each credit agency.
5. Businesses being affected:
If the business is a sole proprietorship, partnership, or a single member LLC (businesses less likely to file with an individual SSN), then they are able to take advantage of the Protectmyid.com because their business is seen as an extension of themselves.
On Friday at 8 a.m., businesses can call 1-800-279-9881 or visit: http://www.dandb.com/sc to sign up for credit monitoring.
6. What happens after one year of free service?
The Department of Consumer Affairs says this is a lesson in how important it is to monitor your credit, and what free services are out there.
Consumer Affairs suggests you continue to check your bank account, get free credit reports and freeze your account.
7. Best way to protect yourself:
Freeze your account. It is free, and will not allow anyone to touch your finances without you thawing it.
You will receive a PIN, put it someplace safe but accessible because you will need it if you ever want to thaw it.
8. PROBLEM: Holiday Shopping
If you freeze your account, you will not be able to sign up for store loyalty cards. Say you're shopping black Friday at Target and want that 15% off by signing up for a card? No can do. The clerk will not be able to run your credit at the counter.
9. Should I file my taxes next year?
Most people are hesitant to, but of course you have to. They are already working on press releases to help ease peoples mind around tax time.
Still looking for answers? Send us an email explaining the problem you're having and we'll work to find the answers for you.