Avoiding Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when personal information such as your Social Security number or bank account number is taken without permission and used to commit crimes or fraud. Identity theft can be carried out via phone, email or through fraudulent websites.

Follow these tips to help prevent identity theft:

  • Keep your billing and banking statements and other personal records secured, and shred them when they are no longer needed.
  • Keep your confidential information to yourself. Never respond to phone calls or emails asking to confirm your personal information. Don’t leave PIN numbers, passwords or other personal information around for others to see.
  • Practice secure postal mail practices. Use a public mailbox rather than your home mailbox to send payments and other mail containing sensitive information. Pick your mail up promptly and ask the post office to hold your mail while away.
  • Review your bills and bank statements promptly. If you find any charges or debits that you didn’t make, contact Bell State Bank & Trust at 701-298-1550 or the company immediately.
  • Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card or other cards that have your Social Security number on them unless you are going somewhere where you will need them. Only provide your Social Security number when there is a legitimate need to do so.
  • We recommend that you monitor your credit report for unauthorized activity. You are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months. Request a report by visiting the official government site, annualcreditreport.com, or by calling 877-322-8228.

Here are some identity theft prevention tips for when you’re spending time online:

  • Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a firewall on your computer, and keep them updated.
  • Ensure the website is secure when you provide financial or other sensitive information online. The website address should change from “http” to “https” or “shttp.” A “lock” symbol may also indicate that the website is safe.
  • Be cautious with suspicious email messages by deleting them; they could contain harmful software or links that could lead to the exploitation of your computer and personal information.
  • “Stop – Think – Click.” Stop and think before you click the attachment or link.
  • Spam or phishing emails may look like they are from someone you may recognize. If any of the information sent to you seems suspicious, it is a good idea to contact the sender directly for verification before opening any attachments or clicking on any links. If someone hasn’t sent you an email in a long time and suddenly sends you strange messages containing attachments or links, they may have a virus on their computer. Don’t open any attachments or click on any links from this sender. If you do, your computer and information could be at risk.
  • Monitor your accounts online frequently. You can discover problems much faster online than if you wait for bills or statements to be delivered by mail.
  • Never call a number provided within an email related to your personal information, unless you are sure it is valid. Always verify the number with a source you already know and trust. Fraudsters can set up temporary phones and may attempt to trick you into revealing personal information.
  • Some common email subjects that fraudsters use to “hook” their victims within emails are:
  1. Failed Bank Transfer – contact the number below immediately or click on this link to “manage” your account.
  2. We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account.
  3. Your order was processed. Your bank account will be charged $###.##. Click on this link to view your order. (This comes from a company that you didn’t order anything from.)

For more information relating to cybersecurity and identify theft, the following websites are very helpful:

• The Federal Trade Commission sponsors a website called www.onguardonline.gov. This website provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer and protect your personal information.

Consumer Federation of America’s website contains helpful consumer protection tips such as identify theft.

The Department of Homeland Security’s website provides cybersecurity tips and best practices.


By Eric Andring, IT Compliance & Risk Manager, Bell State Bank & Trust

2 Responses to this post...

  • Mary Ekren on Feb 5, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    I am hosting a company event on March 26th in Fargo and I was hoping to have someone from Bell spend 45 minutes address fraud identification & prevention (personal & business) and perhaps some “Best Practice Audit Procedures”. Please share your thoughts, suggestions and feedback!

  • jlarson on Feb 7, 2013 at 9:31 am #


    Our Fraud Officer, Jim Martin, would likely be the best person to help you with your event. Please feel free to call him at 701-298-1607.

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