Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008 | 7:53 a.m.
Computer tapes holding private customer information including names, addresses, driver's license numbers and financial account numbers were stolen from a Pulte Homes office in Las Vegas last month, and the developer is cautioning home buyers to take precautions to protect their identity.
In a letter dated Dec. 19, Pulte Homes Las Vegas Division told 16,000 customers of the Nov. 13 theft of a box containing computer backup tapes.
"At this time, it is not known whether the box was stolen with the knowledge of its contents, or the intent, know-how and ability to extract and exploit the information stored in these backup tapes," the letter said.
So far, there is no indication that any of the information has been used for identity theft, Pulte spokeswoman Jacque Petroulakis said Wednesday. Information on both home buyers and employees was on the tapes, she said.
The theft was reported to Metro Police, and the company is cooperating with the investigation, Petroulakis said.
Pulte Homes Inc., of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., along with its Del Webb/Sun City subsidiary, is one of the largest homebuilders in Las Vegas and the nation.
The theft was noticed shortly after it occurred, Petroulakis said, though she added police advised the company not to discuss details.
It took a month for Pulte's information systems team to identify the customers who were potentially affected, she said.
"We proactively informed anyone who can be potentially affected," she said. "We definitely pride ourselves in having a safe environment for our customers."
Pulte advised customers in the letter to take steps to protect themselves from identity theft and is providing its customers a free year of a credit monitoring service. Among the precautions the letter suggested were closing credit card and other financial accounts and getting new PINs and passwords.
It also recommends placing a fraud alert on customers' credit files to force creditors to contact the customer before a new account is opened.
Customers have until March 31 to sign up for a free year of Experian's Triple Advantage Premium credit monitoring service at Pulte's expense, the letter said. The service monitors credit reports of Experian and the other major credit monitoring services, Equifax and TransUnion. It also sends e-mail alerts when changes are noted, provides a free credit bureau report and credit score and offers assistance for those who become a victim of fraud or identity theft.
Petroulakis did not know how much that would cost the company.
"I know it's a significant investment on the part of the company," she said. "It's a small investment to ensure our home buyers feel we are creating a safe environment for them."