The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) recently announced they have stopped nearly 4,000 fraudulent applications for unemployment compensation since the beginning of the pandemic. The OESC reports most of the applications were made using stolen data from a computer somewhere in the UK. For most of these fraudulent applications, stealing identifiable information was the first step towards identity theft..
Now, more than ever, it’s important that you protect yourself against identity theft. There are a number of services offering identity theft protection, and while they can certainly be effective, one of the easiest ways to avoid becoming an identity theft target is to educate yourself on some basic safety measures.
We thought we’d go through some of the easier ways to protect yourself against identity theft. Keep in mind no single strategy is going to offer complete protection, but when you practice simple security practices every day, you make yourself less of a target to identity thieves.
Be careful with your paper checks
If you still use paper checks, don’t have your social security number, address, or driver’s license information printed on the check. Any one of these pieces of information can open the door to identity theft. You should also avoid sending paper checks through the mail when paying your bills. The envelopes provided by utility companies are usually easy to identify, making it easy for thieves to know where to strike.
If your bank offers electronic banking and bill pay, taking advantage of them is an excellent way to secure your monthly bill paying. And you also don’t need to pay for stamps! If you’d like to give it a try, see what CCB’s online Bill Pay system can do for you!
Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet
The days when it was common to carry your social security card in your wallet aren’t far gone, but it’s a risky practice – especially since most of us also keep our driver’s license in our wallets. If someone takes your wallet, they’ll have your social security number, your home address, your driver’s license number, and possibly even some of your banking information. How often do you really need to show your social security card, anyway? It’s best to leave it at home.
Watch your credit card balances and credit score
It’s not uncommon for identity theft to go unnoticed for months or even years. Check your credit card bill each month and make sure that none of the activity seems suspicious. Some credit card companies even offer free credit monitoring. Checking your credit report is fairly simple, but it will allow you to see if someone tries to take out a loan or get a credit card using your information.
Many people don’t know their credit has been compromised until they get turned down for a loan or get sent to a collection agency for a charge they never authorized. By then, the damage is difficult to clean up.
Most companies and agencies won’t call you
Be careful of ANYONE that calls you and wants your information. These days, it’s rare for a company or government agency to contact you by phone. If someone calls and says that they’re from your credit card company, bank, Medicare, or the Social Security Administration, hang up and call that entity directly. If they want to talk to you, they’ll let you know, but usually, those calls are a scam.
Purchase a shredder
Did you know that your trash is valuable? Your old bills, junk mail, or monthly banking statements could provide a wealth of information in the wrong hands. Go down to your local big-box store and get a shredder to destroy anything that might be used against you. It’s also pretty satisfying to shred all that junk mail.
These are just some simple tips, but if you’d like to know more, we recommend heading to the internet and checking the advice from reputable sources like the Federal Trade Commission or TechRadar. You’re also welcome to reach out to us with any questions you might have. We’re here to make your lives better, and part of that means helping to protect you from those people who want to make your life worse.