Pen Fights ID Theft?

You know identity theft has gone mainstream when pen manufacturer Uni-ball launches an ad campaign touting a high-security ink designed to fight ID fraud....

Andrew Conry-Murray

April 15, 2006

2 Min Read
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You know identity theft has gone mainstream when pen manufacturer Uni-ball launches an ad campaign touting a high-security ink designed to fight ID fraud. Uni-ball has hired Frank Abagnale, the con artist turned FBI consultant portrayed in the Hollywood film ???Catch Me If You Can,??? as a pitch man. He???s hawking the Uni-ball 207, which uses ???specifically formulated ink??? that bonds to paper fibers. The goal is to prevent check washing, in which a con artist steals a check from the mail and washes off the ink, then writes out the check to himself for an arbitrary amount.

Says Mr. Abagnale in a video clip on behalf of the product: ???Something as simple as paying attention to the pen you use gives you a head start in fighting the crime of identity theft.???

I???m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, educating consumers about identity theft is an important step in prevention. On the other hand, an anti-ID-theft pen just seems silly.

Rather than worry about what kind of pen you???re using, you???re better off dropping checks into a U.S. mailbox or at a local post office.

Sure, postal employees can steal checks, so if you???re really that paranoid go ahead and buy the pen. But that???s what bothers me most: Uni-ball???s blatant attempt to scare consumers into thinking there???s a national epidemic of check theft.The advertising cites an estimate from the National Check Fraud Center that says check washing costs Americans $815 million a year. Sounds really official, right? However, it appears the Web site for the National Check Fraud Center hasn???t been updated since at least 1999. This doesn???t invalidate the statistics, but it seems to me that Uni-ball is willing to fan the flames of anxiety with anything that comes to hand.

Of course advertisers routinely rely on fear to sell products. It???ll be interesting to see how much traction Uni-ball gets with this tactic. It would be even more interesting if this starts a security arms race in office supplies. Hey Bic, how about two-factor-authentication ball points?

About the Author(s)

Andrew Conry-Murray

Former Director of Content & Community

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