ComputerIt’s the season of giving, but some only want to take. A financial advisor says Iowans can — and should — do more to protect themselves from identity theft, but often don’t bother.

Mike Cetera, with the banking industry website Bankrate-dot-com, says a new report shows 77% of Americans are afraid of identity theft, but many aren’t taking the actions needed to reduce the risks. Cetera says inexpensive “fixes” can help to prevent the crime.

“When you get a document in the mail, a bank statement, a credit card statement, anything with your Social Security number on it, when you’re done using that document, don’t just throw it in the trash, you need to shred it,” Cetera says. “This prevents anyone from picking it out of the trash. The good news is, our survey found that 72% of Americans are already doing this.”

A recent data breach involved the head of the CIA, whose personal email account was hacked, revealing a list of email addresses and Social Security numbers. As that case demonstrates, Cetera says it’s impossible to cover all of your bases.

“There’s no way you can 100% protect yourself,” he says. “When you’re talking about things that are totally outside of your control like data breeches at corporations or governments, there’s literally nothing you can do to stop that.”

If you’re planning to use your smart phone, laptop or tablet at a coffee shop or some other public place, he says to never use an unsecured wi-fi network. Cetera says it’s a good idea to check your credit report at least twice a year.

“That’s going to show if someone has accessed your credit and is trying to open a credit line,” he says. “It used to be pretty difficult for the average consumer to get a hold of their credit score or their credit report, but it’s so easy now to get these things for free.”

Iowans can also help to protect themselves from I-D thieves by using different passwords for all of online accounts — and changing them frequently.

By Karla James