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There are plenty of identity theft facts and statistics out there that might surprise you. Study the following facts to learn how you can protect yourself from identity theft.

1. Beware of Identity Theft on Your Taxes

Every year, the IRS prepares a list of a "Dirty Dozen" fraud and tax scams that may affect you during tax season. One of the most popular scams is identity theft, which can occur randomly, even if you thought your personal information was safe. Identity thieves use made-up Social Security numbers (by chance, it could be yours) to file fake tax forms and try to claim returns. Despite the IRS's best efforts to stop fraudulent returns, over $5.8 billion in unearned returns was given away to identity thieves in 2014.

2. Identity Fraud Occurs Every Two Seconds

According to this article on CNN Money, identity fraud was on the rise in 2013, to the point where it's estimated that one incidence of fraud occurs every two seconds.

3. Identity Theft is the Number One Consumer Complaint

Every year, the Federal Trade Commission ranks the top consumer complaints throughout the United States. In 2014, identity theft took first place for the 15th year running.

4. The Medical Sector Has More Identity Theft Than Any Other Industry

Over the last five years or so, the amount of stolen data within the medical field has more than quadrupled. The year 2014 marked the first year that the medical sector had more data breaches than any other sector. Protect your health insurance card the same way you would protect your Social Security number.

5. Children's Identities Can Be Stolen Before They Have Any Credit

A relatively new trend   and one of the more startling facts on identity theft   involves stealing the Social Security numbers of children and using them to create a new line of credit. Any charges to this line of credit aren't likely to be discovered until the child turns 18 and tries to set up his or her first bank account or credit card.

6. You Can Freeze Your Credit to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

For a small fee, you can create a lock on your credit that makes it accessible only with a PIN. Even if a thief obtains all your personal information, this PIN keeps him or her from creating new lines of credit in your name.

7. Legislation to Protect Student Identities Has Just Been Proposed

Since education is becoming more focused on technology, laws have been proposed that specifically protect student data. This press release from the White House is the first mention of the bill, which is already state law in California.

8. Protecting Your Mailbox is Still Important

Image via Flickr by dvs

One of the most surprising facts of identity theft is how often it is perpetrated by someone physically close to the victim. Hacking and digital data theft are on the rise, but people are still just as likely to steal a credit card offer from your mailbox.

9. Thieves Use Social Media to Find Personal Information

While many cases of identity theft involve someone the victim knows, many others involve a stranger using the internet to obtain your personal information. The easiest way for them to do that is through your social media profiles.

10. Your Smartphone is Vulnerable

Almost all of your personal information is on your smartphone, especially if you use it to shop online. Use a secure Wi-Fi connection, keep your software updated, and use a screen lock or password to protect your user data.

Now that you know these identity theft facts, you can take measures to protect your information from those that would try to steal it.

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