Complicating matters is the trend toward making medical records electronic, if providers don't take sufficient care to make sure the data is secure, Van Dyke says.

Protect yourself by:

  • Checking every "explanation of benefits" form you get from your insurer to make sure you recognize the provider and the treatment.
  • Ask for a year-end "list of benefits" from your insurer, in case a scam artist has changed your address and the EOB forms have gone missing.
  • Be stingy with your Social Security number. Most providers ask for it because it makes collecting on past-due accounts easier, not because it's necessary for insurance coverage or treatment.

Prediction No. 4: You'll be the victim of a database breach, and you won't take it seriously enough.

Privacy advocates cheered when states began forcing companies, governments and other entities to reveal database breaches where people's personal information was compromised. No longer could these threats to our security be covered up or dismissed as unimportant, and identity theft victims -- who often don't know how their information was stolen -- would have a better idea of how they were compromised and could demand redress.

Well, that was the theory. Part of the reality is that reports of database breaches have become so common -- more than 510 million records have been reported as breached since 2005, when the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse started keeping track -- that too many people tune them out.

Many people who get a letter informing them their information has been compromised take no action, Van Dyke notes, even though they're four times more likely to become an identity theft victim than the general population.

"It's like they think just because they got the letter, some benevolent Big Brother is looking out for them," Van Dyke says. "Really, they should be afraid."

If you are notified your information has been compromised, you should:

  • Put fraud alerts on your credit reports at all three bureaus. Equifax's fraud department can be reached at: 1-888-766-0008, Experian fraud department is at 1-888- EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742), and TransUnion's fraud department is at 1-800-680-7289.
  • Consider freezing your credit reports (also known as a security freeze). You can learn more at the Consumers Union site
  • Set up account alerts with all bank and credit accounts so you're notified of unusual activity.
  • Continue monitoring your credit reports for fraudulent activity. You can one free annual look at each from After that, you can buy reports directly from the bureaus or pay for credit monitoring.

Prediction No. 5: You'll get sloppy about the basic protections.

You'll use a public Wi-Fi to check your bank account or fail to password-protect your home's wireless network. You'll be yawping on your cell phone and reveal personal information. You'll forget to update your anti-virus or anti-spyware software. You won't turn on the firewall on your home computer, or you'll remember that but forget the one for your laptop. You won't put a password on your smart phone so that if it's stolen, the thief will have access to a wealth of data.

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And you'll use the same old weak password for every account -- your kid's name, or your dog's -- because you can't be bothered to think up new ones or even change it once in a while.

The site Lifehacker recently put up a fairly comprehensive guide to boosting your security. Check it out, particularly the link to the column "How I'd hack your weak passwords." Protect yourself now, before you have to learn the hard way how much chaos an identity thief can wreak in your life.

Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.