ID theft prevention steps taken

Published 9:31 am Tuesday, October 7, 2014

WINTON – The Hertford County Commissioners took steps at their monthly meeting here Monday to improve the security of those persons who were affected by the privacy breach that occurred with information released on the Hertford County website last month.

On Sept. 22 the county discovered that the posted list of delinquent tax liens for the tax years 2005-thru-2013 on the county’s website inadvertedly included confidential information; namely the names and Social Security numbers for some, but not all, of the individuals listed.

After extensively reviewing the data, all of the affected individuals were notified by mailed letters that went out on Oct. 3.  Those who didn’t receive a letter did not have their vital data compromised in this incident.

The posting of the delinquent tax lien list to the county’s website took place Aug. 14.  Hertford County Manager Loria Williams said the discovery was made by an individual visiting the county’s website who in turn contacted local officials to make them aware of what was posted online.

While the information was immediately removed upon discovery, and there is no evidence to date to suggest that there has been any attempt to misuse or discredit any of this information, the county is sending written correspondence to those who may have been affected in order to protect and safeguard said information in the future.

The Commissioners voted unanimously to offer identity theft protection services free of charge for one full year through ID Experts of Portland, Oregon to offset any possible breaches of privacy and security information.

Letters detailing the offer are being mailed to 1,307 individuals who have been affected.

ID Experts, a data breach and recovery services expert, will provide Fraudstop (TM) to the taxpayers.  It includes 12 months of credit monitoring, a $20,000 insurance re-imbursement policy, exclusive education materials, and access to fraud resolution representatives.  All with the idea of resolving any issues that may arise where identities may have been compromised.

There are two ways affected persons can enroll with ID Experts: by calling toll-free 1-888-266-9420 or going to county.  ID Experts is available to service these persons Monday-thru-Friday from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Eastern time.

There is a deadline for those affected to sign-up for the free service: Jan. 1, 2015.

“At this time there is no evidence that any of your information has been misused,” Williams writes in the letter to those affected.  “However, we encourage you to take full advantage of this service offering.  Representatives of ID Experts have been fully versed on the incident and can answer any questions or concerns one might have regarding protection of one’s vital personal information.”

Once sign-up has been completed, free credit monitoring will be provided as well as instructions for reviewing one’s credit reports from the three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  Any possible suspicious items would then be reported to ID Experts through their website and a theft report would be filed.

While a fraud alert of any compromises can be filed with the police, the actual posting of the private information did not constitute a crime.

Information is also provided in the letter on several state agencies, for those affected who live out of state that can be contacted in the event of a privacy breach.  That list also includes the Office of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in Raleigh.

County Attorney Charles Revelle, III told the News-Herald that some out-of-state Local Government Councils across the nation were informed of the measures Hertford County is taking, and may use this as a blueprint and an example on the handling of their own possible security compromises.

In addition to the cover letter and security protection information within, the county has also provided a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet for any additional questions those affected might have.