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Identity theft is far more common than you may think. In fact, 16.6 million people experienced identity theft in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. That means 7% of people over the age of 16 have experienced identity theft. Protecting yourself from this crime is a serious matter and there’s no shame in being obsessive about monitoring your financial accounts and your credit.

Here are four reasons to protect yourself from identity theft.

1. You’ll enjoy better credit and financial health.

The expenses associated with identity theft are nothing to joke about. The total loss of money attributed to stolen identities amounted to $24.7 billion in 2012, according to the BJS. Protecting yourself from data theft will help keep you financially healthy and ensure that your credit history checks run smoothly. You can monitor your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com. Any unexpected changes in your scores could signal identity theft.

2. To keep your job opportunities secure.

Employment background checks are a serious matter. Often companies will check your credit history as part of your employment check. If you have suffered identity theft without knowing it, your credit may well have been compromised. Find out what’s on your credit report. Check it at least twice a year, suggests the IDT911 Knowledge Center. (You can get one credit report for free annually from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.)

3. Have a better relationship with your doctor and insurance company.

Medical identity theft can harm your health. This problem continues to increase in the U.S., according to the Ponemon Institute. In 2012, 272 million people had their medical credentials and information stolen. Victims could have problems getting their medications refilled or could be treated for someone else’s illness, and they might have things fraudulently reported to their insurance company. Also, medical records contain a great deal of personal information.

4. Keep your children safe.

Child identity theft is such a significant crime that New York lawmakers have worked on a bill to help prevent it. Recently, a measure was sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would allow parents to freeze children’s bank accounts in the event of data theft. If your child receives bills in the mail or the IRS sends letters pertaining to tax issues that shouldn’t apply, then your child may be a victim of identity theft. Kids are vulnerable because they have a clean credit history, which is valuable to identity thieves. Additionally, children might not know they have been victims until years later when they apply for credit cards or a loan.

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