WASHINGTON (10/20/11)--The 4th annual National Protect Your Identity Week, which began on Oct. 16 and continues until Oct. 21, provides consumers with an excellent opportunity to understand the steps needed to guard their financial account and personal information against identity theft, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) said. FinCEN Director James Freis said “identity theft is one of the top 10 suspicious activities reported to FinCEN by financial institutions,” and FinCEN in a release said a recent study found that identity thieves prefer to use stolen account identifiers to take over existing legitimate investment accounts, rather than to set up new unauthorized users. FinCEN also noted that vigilant financial institution employees in 2010 rejected over half of fraudulent vehicle or student loans facilitated by identity theft prior to funding. More than eight million consumers were impacted last year by the crime of identity theft, resulting in the loss of $37 billion, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. The agency encouraged consumers to visit http://www.protectyouridnow.org/ to find new ways to help prevent identity theft. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) joined a number of government agencies and organizations earlier this week to launch this year’s National Protect Your Identity Week. Child identity theft protection and education are the focus of this year’s observation. More than 100 related events have been planned for this week. Credit unions and other organizations are offering ID theft protection handouts, workshops, speakers, cell phone collection, credit report reviews and shredding, and some credit unions are using the events as part of Thursday’s International Credit Union Day. For prior NewsNow coverage of National Identity Theft Prevention week, use the resource link.