In October of 2012 the South Carolina Department of Revenue announced a hacker had broken into their system and stolen the personal information of millions of residents and businesses. This information included social security numbers and bank account numbers. In the wake of this major security breach, many residents and business owners in South Carolina have been left wondering how this affects them and if they should be concerned. The short answer is yes, you should be concerned. While it could be several months or more before the hacker attempts to use most of the information, steps should be taken now to protect your information. There have already been reports of the stolen information being used to steal from bank accounts. If your personal is on file with the State Department of Revenue information (i.e. - you filed a tax return or received a refund via direct deposit in the last several years ) you are vulnerable for an attack. The stolen data can be used years after the theft. Oftentimes, the information is sold in small bundles to criminals who want to obtain credit cards and loans under someone else’s identity or to drain someone’s bank account. The good news is that The State of South Carolina is offering free lifetime identity theft protection that includes credit monitoring to state residents. Taxpayers can sign by calling 1-866-568-5422 or register online by January 31, 2013 at protectmyid.com/scdor with access code “scdor123." Every South Carolina resident should take advantage of this offer and sign up for the service. You will be notified via email of any use of your personal information used to open a credit card, loan, or bank account. Several lawsuits have been threatened and at least one has already been filed against the State regarding their alleged negligence in the breakdown of security that allowed the information to be stolen. It remains to be seen how successful these lawsuits will be or what relief will be awarded to victims. The best thing a South Carolina taxpayer can do to protect themselves is to start and maintain a regular review of their credit reports and bank accounts. Any suspicious activity you find regarding your financial information should be reported to law enforcement and your bank immediately in order to prevent or minimize the damage. While you should be concerned about the hacking scandal with tax records and personal information there are steps you can take to protect yourself from criminals using your personal information to steal from you.