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,, 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:

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.


15 Responses to this post...

  • Ronald E. Dick on Jan 14, 2013 at 11:35 am #

    Thank you for the email. I was unaware of the service you provide in the event of identity theft. I also appreciate the on-going vigilance evidenced by phone calls if an unusual transaction is observed on my account.

    I will review the tips sent as part of your email.


  • jlarson on Jan 14, 2013 at 1:54 pm #


    Thank you for your comments. We feel the free identity theft recovery program is an important part of our America’s Best Free Checking account.

  • Henry LaBore on Jan 14, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    I have been a customer of your bank for
    almost 60 years and appreciate all the
    perks you offer your customers.

    I am now 93 years old and you have served
    me well. As far as I am concerned, your
    the only bank in town.

    Very satisfied customer

    Henry LaBore

  • Kathy Coyle on Jan 14, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    I appreciate all the services of Bell State Bank. My only concern is when I go to the drive up and ocassionally they ask me for the last 4 numbers in my social security number. I am concerned that another customer might overhear the conversation.

  • jlarson on Jan 14, 2013 at 2:22 pm #


    Thank you for your positive comments!

  • Pat an Carla Bellmore on Jan 14, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    Thanks, for all the services you provide for our safety! I agree, to us you are the only bank in town. Bell State Bank is a friend in good times and bad. Who can you say that about anymore?

  • jlarson on Jan 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Pat and Carla,

    Thanks for the comments. They are appreciated!

  • Tom Fellman on Jan 14, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    Great informaton. Thanks for providing this service!


    Tom Fellman

  • jlarson on Jan 15, 2013 at 8:17 am #


    You are very welcome!

  • jlarson on Jan 15, 2013 at 11:00 am #


    Thank you for your comment. The last four digits of the social security number are used for verification purposes. To avoid your social security number be stated over the intercom system, you could write down your SSN or send in your driver’s license with your transaction.

  • Dennis on Jan 16, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Thanks for always looking out for us as usual. We have always been please with your service. Especially the staffing expertise and professionalism.!!

  • jlarson on Jan 16, 2013 at 9:57 am #


    Thank you for the compliments!

  • Fran Dexter on Jun 29, 2013 at 6:07 am #

    We have been with State Bank and Bell State Bank for over 40 years and have received only the best service in the friendliest manner. I am wondering, if, with the identity theft protection the bank provides, it is necessary to also maintain a subscription protection plan that has a yearly fee attached. What is your advice?

  • Fran Dexter on Jun 29, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    We have been State Bank and Bell State Bank customers for over 40 years. We have received consistently excellent service in the friendliest manner. I am wondering if, with Bell Bank’s identity theft protection, it is necessary to subscribe also to a subscription protection service with a yearly fee attached. What is your advice?

  • jlarson on Jul 1, 2013 at 2:41 pm #


    Thank you for your question. Bell State Bank & Trust’s free identity theft recovery service helps if you become a victim of identity theft. It’s not an identity theft protection service. At Bell State Bank & Trust, every personal checking customer is automatically covered if you become a victim of identity theft. Customers are covered for any type of identity theft, even if the accounts are non-Bell State Bank & Trust accounts or credit cards. Click here for more information about our free identity theft recovery.

    Also, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. Here is the website:

    If you have any more questions, please call our Customer Service Department at 701-298-1550.

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