Stearns Bank takes the security of your account information very seriously. We guard against unauthorized access to client information, and we are committed to taking the appropriate action to prevent fraud.
Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information and identification. They may open credit card accounts, apply for loans, rent apartments, or purchase phone services—all in your name. In many cases, they request address changes so you never see the bills for their activity. Most identity theft victims never know they have been taken advantage of until they apply for a loan or receive a call from a collection agency. You can spend months or even years re-establishing your creditworthiness.
Tips to avoid identity theft:
- Store personal information in a safe place.
- Shred financial information, bank checks, credit card offers or pre-approved credit applications, and credit card receipts before discarding them in the trash.
- Never disclose account numbers, social security numbers, or credit card numbers over the phone or email unless you know the person or organization you're dealing with.
- Deposit outgoing mail into a secure, official U.S. Postal Service collection box. Promptly remove incoming mail after it has been delivered.
- Monitor account information and billing statements. Review monthly statements for unauthorized charges or withdrawals. Missing statements could indicate that someone has filed a change of address notice to divert your mail to his or her address.
- Obtain and review copies of your credit report. Order copies of your credit report yearly to check for inaccuracies and fraudulent use of your accounts. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877.322.8228 to request a free credit report from the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies:
Steps to take If you become a victim of identity theft:
- Notify the Credit Bureau. Contact one of the three credit bureau's fraud departments. The one you contact will notify the other two. Request that a "fraud alert" be placed in your file, as well as a victim's statement asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts or changing any existing accounts. To report fraud:
- Request a copy of your credit report. Credit reports are free to fraud victims.
- Notify financial institutions. Call the financial institution where the fraud occurred.
- Open new accounts and have affected accounts closed.
- Have new PINs and passwords issued.
- Consider contacting other financial institutions where you may have accounts.
- File a police report with your local police department. Ask for a copy of the report, or at the very least record the date, time, and number of the report; the location of the department; and the name of the officer taking the report.
- Call the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC's toll-free "Identity Theft Hotline" is 877-438-4338 and their website is Consumer.gov/IDtheft. A Consumer ID Theft Complaint Form can be obtained and completed.
- Report any suspected stolen mail. Contact your local postal inspector and check the post office for unauthorized change of address requests.
- Keep a record of events. Write down everyone you contacted. Record the time, title, and phone number of each person you spoke to. Also, note the substance of what was discussed and any report, case, or reference numbers. Keep copies of any reports or affidavits you send and any letters or information you receive.
Consumer Rights under the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
- Ask the national credit bureaus to place an initial or extended fraud alert in your file. These alerts require that creditors contact you before opening any new accounts or changing existing accounts.
- An Initial Alert stays on your file for at least 90 days and entitles you to a free copy of your report on file at each of the three credit bureaus.
- An Extended Alert stays on your file for seven years and entitles you to two free credit reports in a 12-month period from the time the alert was placed.
- Obtain documents relating to any fraudulent transactions made or accounts opened using your personal information. A creditor or other business must give you copies of applications and other business records relating to transactions and accounts that resulted from the theft of your identity, but you must ask for them in writing.
Phishing scams are one of the fastest-growing frauds today. The scam uses unsolicited email to bait consumers into disclosing sensitive personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, personal identification numbers, passwords, and other private information.
These unsolicited emails give the appearance of being from legitimate businesses, fraudsters usually pick a business that the potential victim actually does business with. The fraudsters tell the email recipients they need to "update" or "validate" their billing information to keep their accounts active. To help set the hook, they even direct their potential victims to a website that imitates the look of the legitimate website with logos, colors, and designs to match. The consumers then submit their information to the impostor, who then uses the personal data to commit identity theft.
Stearns Bank will not send confidential account information through email because it is not encrypted and is not a secure form of communication. You should never enter private, personal information in a form that was sent to you via email.
Stearns Bank will never request a customer's personal, confidential information (bank card number, account number, social security number, personal identification number, or password) through email.
Tips to protect yourself against phishing:
- Never click on links in unexpected email. If you get an email that warns you, with little or no notice, that an account of yours will be shut down or suspended unless you reconfirm your billing information, do not reply or click on the link in the email. Instead, contact the legitimate company cited in the email using a telephone number or web address you know as genuine. Always type in the web address to the website in the internet browser.
- Make sure you are using a secure internet connection. Before submitting confidential information via the internet, make sure that the connection to the website is secure. First, look at the address bar at the top of your browser. If the website address begins with "https://", then you have established a secure connection. If it begins with "http://", the connection is unsecured. Second, look for a "lock" icon in your browser's status bar (bottom corner of your browser). The lock verifies that your connection to the website is secure.
- Install updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Both viruses and spyware can leave your computer vulnerable to attack and intrusion. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software will keep your computer safe from malicious software that might have installed itself or tried to install itself onto your computer.
- Install a firewall. A firewall will prevent attacks on your computer from the internet by determining if a requested connection is malicious.
- Keep your internet browser, anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall up to date. Visit the manufacturer's website regularly and check for software and security upgrades.
- Never email personal and/or financial information. Email systems are not encrypted and therefore emails should not contain confidential information.
- Open emails only from known senders. You shouldn't open emails from a sender who is not known to you. Do not open attachments unless you are confident that you can trust the source.
Website/Online Banking Security
To protect the privacy and security of your personal information the entire Stearns Bank website is protected using a COMODO Digital SSL Certificate. We've added an additional layer of security that shows if you are connected to a safe server. If your browser's address bar is GREEN, your connection is safe. If it's not green, stop and contact us at 1-800-320-7262.
When you enroll in Online Banking, you are protected by a powerful, multilayered security system. The access process begins with you typing in your correct User ID and Password. Then we check the device you are using (computer, smartphone or tablet). If we don't recognize the device, you will be asked a Security Challenge to ensure your identity. We also check geographic indicators, so if you try logging in from a new location, you may be asked an additional question.