Identity theft is far more common than you may think. In fact, 16.6 million people experienced identity theft in 2012, . That means 7 percent of everyone over the age of 16 has experienced identity theft. Protecting yourself from this crime is a serious matter.

Here are four reasons why you should protect yourself from identity theft:

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 dollars in 2012, according to the BJS. Protecting yourself from data theft will keep your financial health secure and ensure that your credit history checks run smoothly every time.

Help 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, you could severely reduce your chances of having good credit. Find out what's on your credit report. Check it at least twice a year, .

Have a better relationship with your doctor and insurance company. Medical identity theft can seriously harm your health. This problem continues to increase in the U.S., . In 2012, 272 million people had their medical credentials and information stolen. Victims could have problems getting their medications refilled, and they might have things fraudulently reported to their insurance company. Additionally, medical records contain a great deal of personal information that would then be held in the wrong hands.

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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