When Michael Burkhold Jr. heard last week that a hack into the South Carolina Department of Revenue had exposed him to potential identity theft, he registered for the state-sponsored Experian ProtectMyID service.
When news broke this week that not only individual but also business tax returns were compromised, Burkhold's thoughts turned to Equiscript, his Charleston-based prescription-management company.
In addition to the exposed business checking account, Burkhold is concerned that his and his partner's Social Security numbers were on those tax returns, and that his employees' Social Security numbers were submitted for withholding purposes.
So he has asked his in-house accountant to enroll Equiscript in the free credit-monitoring service offered by Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. and to look into what else needs to be done to protect the company.
"Right now we're just trying to figure out," Burkhold said. "I don't feel secure about any of it."
Burkhold is one of thousands of South Carolina business owners coping with the news that they could be doubly victimized as a result of the massive hack announced Friday.
After some initial uncertainty, Gov. Nikki Haley revealed Wednesday that, in addition to 3.6 million individual taxpayers, some 587,000 business records are also at risk.
She seemed to downplay the risk to businesses, saying checking account routing numbers and employer identification numbers are essentially public information, before adding that Social Security numbers could be among the hacked data and strongly urging businesses to enroll in Dun & Bradstreet's CreditAlert service.
"So what I can tell you is they got what is already public," she said Wednesday. "But again I would recommend businesses take advantage of Dun & Bradstreet and sign up."
Frank Knapp Jr., president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, appreciates the free service, but not the governor's characterization of the exposure. It's one thing to write a check to your doctor or a neighborhood business owner and another for "an international hacker thief" to surreptitiously swipe the information, he said.
"It's not the same, and really I don't understand why they need to give everybody a false sense of confidence," said Knapp, who also owns a Columbia advertising agency.
Knapp is recommending the Experian and Dun & Bradstreet services and advising his organization's 5,000 members close their checking accounts and open new ones.
Anja Stief, owner of Dish and Design Catering in Mount Pleasant, said she hasn't gone that far yet, but she has instructed her accountant to start by changing the accounts' passwords and signing up for the Dun & Bradstreet service.
"At this point I think that's the smart thing to do," Stief said. "We just need to protect ourselves."
Jeff Meyer, president of J. Meyer Homes, a Mount Pleasant-based homebuilder responsible for neighborhoods in Ladson and Hollywood, hasn't taken any protective action yet.
"We monitor our financial accounts, so I haven't hit the panic button about it," he said, adding that he is more concerned about "other aspects of the ecomony."
"I'm more worried about whether people can get qualified for a mortgage," he said.
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