KB Home warns of ID theft risk

January 18, 2007

By Kristy Eppley Rupon


Thousands of KB Home customers are being warned of the risk of identity theft after one of the home builder.s computers was stolen from a Charleston sales office.

The company sent letters to 2,700 people Friday advising them to put a fraud alert on their credit reports and to monitor their credit for the next couple of years.

Ken Fenchel, who bought his Lexington home from KB Home in May, is irritated the company is not offering to do more to help the customers avoid identity theft.

"At a minimum they should (pay for) one year of fraud protection. for those customers, Fenchel said. .I.m not sure what else you can do."

As a precautionary measure, KB Home officials say, they sent the letter to more people than they believe were affected.

The stolen computer likely had names, addresses and Social Security numbers only of people who had visited the sales office for Foxbank Plantation, a new home community in Berkeley County near Charleston, said Jeff Meyer, division president for KB Home South Carolina.

KB Home, which has a financing program for potential buyers, collects Social Security numbers from people who want to pre-qualify for a loan.

"I don't really expect that anybody from Columbia was on that computer, but we figure better safe than sorry," Meyer said. "We think the action we took is a reasonable response."

The computer was in a locked sales office with an alarm system when the wire to the alarm was cut and the computer was stolen Dec. 30, Meyer said. Nothing else of value was taken, he said.

The letter was sent Friday to anyone who had visited a KB Home sales office in South Carolina during a certain time period last year.

"There is a risk to you of potential identity theft or misuse of information," the letter states. "Nonetheless, our research reveals that computer thieves generally want only the hardware and customarily erase all data from the disk prior to illegal resale of the hardware."

The personal information that was on the computer was password protected, according to the letter.

But that is little consolation for Fenchel, a military veteran who was in danger of identity theft last year when a Veterans Administration laptop containing personal information was stolen in Maryland.

He is concerned about "the devastating effect" identity theft could have on his life if his information is used to open fraudulent accounts. He said the KB Home incident points to the need for greater security of personal information.

Still, Meyer said, the risk "is fairly small." KB Home recently decided to eliminate all Social Security numbers from their files to protect their clients.

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