Postmaster General Takes Umbrage With Wachovia Ad

Says Bank's TV Spot Blaming Mail for Identity Theft Is 'Absurd'

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WASHINGTON ( -- Postmaster General John Potter today attacked Wachovia Corp. for suggesting in a TV ad that the mail was a major source of identity theft -- and that customers should pay bills online instead.
Postmaster General John Potter accused Wachovia of 'really doing a disservice to the American public.'
Postmaster General John Potter accused Wachovia of 'really doing a disservice to the American public.'

Asserting that mail accounts for less than 4% of identity theft and that the problem is already confusing enough to consumers, Mr. Potter first ripped the ad, created by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen, Winston-Salem, N.C., without mentioning that it was for the nation's fifth-largest bank.

'A little honesty'
"I have no problem with competition -- it's a good thing, it can keep everyone at the top of their game," he said. "All I ask for is a little honesty when you're doing it." Asked specifically about the bank, he accused Wachovia of "really doing a disservice to the American public."

"To me it's absurd that the bank is pointing to the mail when we know that [the web] is like the Wild Wild West," he said.

Wachovia did not return several calls seeking comment.

Mr. Potter sits on a government multiagency task force looking at identity theft; he said the task force's report will show that the majority of identity theft comes from other sources, including employee or insider data theft, computer hacking, phishing, lost or stolen wallets and even people rifling through the trash.

He said a member of his family had their identity stolen.

Consumers should be informed
Mr. Potter said banks and others should be pointing out to consumers how to protect themselves rather than making unsubstantiated accusations. "We are not doing enough to inform the American people about what is going on with identity theft. We are much more comfortable to sweep it under the rug."

Mr. Potter, who today announced a Postal Service environmental initiative, said the Postal Service opposed various do-not-mail proposals offered in a number of states and said it was working with direct-mail advertisers to help them target their mailings better so that consumers get pitches that interest them.
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