Should you sign up for Home Depot’s identity theft protection with AllClear ID? – The Plain Dealer

If you’re one of the tens of millions who shopped at Home Depot the last five months and paid with plastic, you’re now eligible for identity theft protection.

Should you sign up? You bet you should.

Sophisticated hackers, believed to be from the Ukraine or Russia, now hold names, credit and debit account numbers and other personal information belonging to an undisclosed number of Home Depot shoppers. The home improvements giant confirmed this week that a breach occurred at more than 2,200 stores in the United States and Canada, affecting people who paid with credit or debit cards at checkout. Online sales were not affected.

The thieves have been selling the stolen account numbers on underground websites for $25 to $100 each. Buyers can use the information to create duplicate cards and/ or possibly go shopping online.

Many banks are re-issuing credit and debit cards that were compromised — some across the board and some at customers’ request.

It’s not yet publicly known what information the thieves have. We know they have people’s names, credit/debit card account numbers, expiration dates, internal card security codes, ZIP codes and whether the card was a debit or credit card.

It’s also not known whether the breached information includes other personal data such as Social Security numbers (for people who applied for Home Depot credit cards in the store) or addresses and dates of birth for people whose driver’s licenses were swiped because they were writing a check or returning merchandise.

Earlier coverage:

Steps to protect yourself from this breach

Cleveland banks start re-issuing cards

Home Depot converting to safer checkout terminals by year-end

Answers to your most-common breach questions

Home Depot spokeswoman Paula Drake declined to comment Wednesday on the number of accounts affected or information that was stolen.

“We are still in the investigation phase of determining the full scope, scale and impact of the breach,” she said. “Most importantly, we want customers to know how sorry we are about the frustration and anxiety this causes.”

Home Depot on Monday announced it’s offering free identity theft protection to customers for one year. The service, through AllClear ID, would normally cost $14.95 a month. Home Depot also promises no customer will be responsible for fraudulent charges. (You can sign up through Home Depot’s web site, www.homedepot.com or by clicking here or by calling Home Depot at 800-466-3337.)

AllClear ID appears to be more sophisticated than the identity theft service offered by Target after its massive breach last year. AllClear ID was founded 10 years ago as Debix.

Unless you’re already paying for identity theft protection with services like  AllClear’s and you used plastic at Home Depot from April 1 through Sept. 2, you should sign up.

AllClear ID Pro goes a couple of steps deeper than some identity theft protection services, said Robert Siciliano, a Boston identity theft expert and president of BestIDTheftCompanys.

Services such as AllClear ID “monitor the status a person’s Social Security number, often when it’s being used to apply for new lines of credit,” said Siciliano, who is also the author of the book “99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen.”

If the identity theft service detected your Social Security number is being used, you would receive an alert and then you could allow the application to be processed or stop the account from being opened.

In addition, AllClear ID allows you to register your existing credit or debit card accounts. The service would monitor those numbers on the web. “They’re looking for your data being bought and sold in underground chats on the dark Web,” Siciliano said.

Denver identity theft expert John Sileo said that any identity theft service that tries to stop fraud before it happens — as AllClearID aims to do — is better than notifying you after it occurred. The latter is what many identity theft services offer.

AllClear ID monitors your full name, Social Security number, credit card information, physical address and phone number. It monitors information collected by the three major credit bureaus. It does not monitor loans and leases, public records, driver’s license numbers, medical insurance numbers or criminal records. It also offers an insurance policy of up to $1 million that will be spent to investigate and resolve fraud and cover fees, lost wages and other expenses.

Using an identity theft service is only one step in protecting yourself, Sileo said.

You should also consider freezing your credit files through the credit bureaus so no new accounts can be opened without your authorization. “I’m a big fan of this,” Sileo said.

And you should continue to monitor your own accounts for suspicious activity.

Finally, you should watch out for odd emails, letters or phone calls. You should be particularly paranoid about any unexpected emails or calls or letters that ask for personal information from you or ask you to click on links. People are probably already getting fraudulent emails from thieves posing as Home Depot. If you sign up for the identity theft monitoring through Home Depot, then follow-up emails will come from homedepot@allclearid.com. But there are probably already thieves spoofing that email address. You should look at the actual sender of an email, not the name being used, to verify identity. You can also call Home Depot at 1-800-466-3337 instead of signing up for the service online.

The Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group in California, says free credit monitoring services through reputable companies can’t hurt and could definitely help you.

Siciliano, the Boston identity theft expert, said, “The idea is to give you some sense that your back is being watched and that there is a degree of protection in place.”

Here is what Home Depot is saying about the identity theft service it’s offering:

“If you need identity repair assistance during the next 12 months, starting on Sept. 8, 2014, the team at AllClear ID is ready and standing by to assist you. There is no action required on your part at this time. If a problem arises, simply call 1-855-252-0908 and a dedicated investigator will do the work to recover financial losses, restore your credit, and make sure your identity is returned to its proper condition.

“For additional protection, affected U.S. customers may enroll in the AllClear PRO service and affected Canadian customers may enroll in the Equifax Premier service at no cost to them at any time during the next 12 months. These services are available through Sept. 8, 2015, and include credit monitoring and an identity theft insurance policy.

“You are eligible to receive these services if you used a payment card at one of The Home Depot’s stores in 2014, from April on.

“Important Reminders:
• Your identity protection is completely free. You will never be charged.
• Review your credit card statements carefully and call your bank if you see any suspicious transactions.
• Be aware of phone calls or emails that appear to offer you identity theft protection but are truly phishing schemes designed to steal your information. Always go directly to The Home Depot’s website or to the AllClear ID website for information rather than clicking on links in emails.
• The information captured in this sign up process will not be used for any purpose other than providing you with protection.

“For additional details or questions regarding this incident, please visit http://www.homedepot.com.”

Article source: http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2014/09/should_you_sign_up_for_home_de.html

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