Helpful Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft
By Eric Andring, Information Security Officer, Bell State Bank & Trust
Identity theft occurs when personal information such as your Social Security number or bank account number is misused by another person to commit crimes or fraud. Identity thieves normally conduct these crimes for their own financial gain. Often times, people do not know they have become victims of identity theft until they are denied credit or have begun receiving bills from companies they do not recognize. Identity theft can be initiated via phone, text, 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 your bank 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 some-where 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 additional identity theft 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 and think before you click that email attachment or web 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.
For more Cybersecurity and Identify Theft tips, visit these websites:
- The Federal Trade Commission sponsors a website called http://www.onguardonline.gov. This website provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be more safe, secure and responsible online.
- Consumer Federation of America’s website contains helpful consumer protection tips such as identify theft. http://www.consumerfed.org/consumer-privacy/fraud
- The Department of Homeland Security provides Cybersecurity tips and best practices. http://www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect-1
What If It Happens to You?
If you are a Bell State Bank & Trust personal checking customer, and you believe you have fallen victim to fraud or identity theft, contact any Bell State Bank & Trust location. You are automatically covered with our FREE Identity Theft Recovery Program! This program covers any identity theft, such as fraudulent use of your name, Social Security number, bank account, any credit/debit card, or other identifying information—even of non-Bell State Bank accounts and credit cards—with up to $10,000 ID theft expense reimbursement insurance. Plus, a FREE Personal Recovery Advocate assigned to you will manage your recovery plan and contact banks, credit card companies and agencies such as the DMV, Social Security and the U.S. Post Office for you, working on your behalf for as long as it takes to recover your good name.
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