Identity Theft Monitoring Offered to Microsoft 365 Consumer Users
Microsoft this week announced that a new Identity Theft Monitoring service is available to U.S. subscribers to the Microsoft 365 Personal or Microsoft 365 Family editions.
The Identity Theft Monitoring service can be downloaded as an app from the "Microsoft, Google, and Apple app stores" or MacOS users can get it here. It's also accessible via the My Defender sign-in page, but just as a beta version "until December 1st, 2022," according to a note in Microsoft's "Getting Started document.
No extra charge was described for Identity Theft Monitoring users.
The service essentially outsources Microsoft 365 Personal and Microsoft 365 Family customers to the operations of Experian, a consumer credit reporting company.
Experian provides some benefits to these subscribers. For instance, Identity Theft Monitoring subscribers are insured by up to $1 million for stolen funds and up to $100,000 for identity theft by "American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida, an Assurant company," which also is owned by Experian, according to the Microsoft-published "Identity Fraud Financial Reimbursement" document.
For the most part, it's up to the Identity Theft Monitoring subscribers to prove the damages in order to be reimbursed. Moreover, Experian's Cash Recovery benefit will only get paid once per year, if it gets approved.
With the service, Microsoft is promising users that they'll be able to:
- See compromised or publicly available details.
- Take actions, such as "resetting passwords for compromised services" and "enabling multi-factor authentication for services that support it."
- Place "a credit freeze to avoid malicious actors affecting your credit, contacting your bank or card provider to report potential fraud on your account."
- Get alerts regarding "64 different types of identity details per breach, from usernames and passwords to credit card numbers and even Social Security numbers."
- Get "contextual recommendations for each individual breach."
- Have "access to a 24/7 support team of restoration specialists that can guide you through the appropriate next steps."
Experian's coverage extends to family members, with limitations, that use Microsoft 365 Family subscriptions. However, Microsoft provided a cautionary note regarding family members under the age of 13. They have to "consent to being monitored."
"Important: Family members over the statutory age (13 in the U.S.) need to consent to being monitored before you can add them," Microsoft explained in its "Getting Started" document.
The service may not entail any additional cost for Microsoft 365 Personal and Microsoft 365 Family subscribers because it adds data to Experian's consumer credit tracking business. Experian also runs a separate and free consumer credit reporting service called "FreeCreditReport.com."
Consumer Info Tracking
Microsoft's Identity Theft Monitoring service can track more than just compromised e-mail addresses and passwords, the "Getting Started" document explained. It'll also track things like Social Security Numbers, drivers license numbers, passport numbers, bank and credit card account details, and more -- all of which presumably would be voluntarily be given to Experian, or Experian may already have extracted such information.
Users of Microsoft's Identity Theft Monitoring service will have to provide some information up front to use it.
"Important: To start monitoring you'll need to tell us at least your email address, full name, and date of birth," Microsoft's "Getting Started" document indicated.
It's Experian, though, that sees the provided information, not Microsoft, per the "Getting Started" document:
When you add a piece of information to be monitored, we securely transmit that info to Experian. Microsoft doesn't see or keep your personal information.
Experian has an interesting and bumpy corporate history, including being bought by Bain Capital and then sold "just one month later," according to Wikipedia's account.
Experian settled with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2005 over accusations that getting its "free" credit reports would also enroll consumers in a "$79.95 credit-monitoring program." A data breach involving "220 million citizens" that was linked to Experian's Brazilian subsidiary was disclosed in January 2021, per Wikipedia's account.
Consumers that just want to check if there's been a data breach (like Experian's) of their e-mail and phone numbers can try the totally unrelated service, "Have I Been Pwned." It's a free service run by Microsoft Regional Director Troy Hunt.
About the Author
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.