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Signature Advice Helps Fight Identity Theft In Top U.S. Cities

uni-ball® offers prevention tips as new findings uncover the nation's top identity theft prone cities

October 4, 2007 (Oak Brook, IL) - Residents in cities big and small nationwide face the increasing threat of identity theft, yet a recent survey finds that less than 25 percent of Americans are taking the proper steps to protect themselves. According to findings released by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and uni-ball® pens today, Phoenix, Arizona tops the list as the U.S. city most at risk for identity theft.1 Cities rounding out the top ten include Riverside, Calif., Las Vegas, Miami, Dallas, Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, and San Antonio.

The "Secure Your Signature™" program, a national campaign from uni-ball pens, is helping put these at-risk cities on alert and educate people across the country on identity theft prevention. Known for its pens that help prevent a type of check fraud called "check washing," uni-ball is teaming up with experts including the ITRC and certified privacy professional Mari Frank, Esq., to further raise awareness of the problem and provide simple, affordable solutions.

"Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country," said Mari Frank, who is also an attorney, author and former identity theft victim. "Although knowledge of the crime has grown in recent years, few people apply simple tactics necessary to help prevent identity theft from happening in the first place."

Frank, one of the uni-ball Secure Your Signature™ program ambassadors, says she finds it surprising that people refuse to provide private information online (78.7 percent of people surveyed) yet are often careless with their own private paper documents.

"There's nothing more personal than your signature," said Frank. "A first step in protecting yourself from identity theft can be as simple as paying attention to the pen you use when you write a check."

1) The determination was based on the number of complaints reported in the Federal Trade Commission's 2006 annual report issued earlier this year, calculated to compare the occurrences per capita in major U.S. metropolitan areas.

Many uni-ball gel pens, such as the uni-ball 207™, use specially-formulated inks that contain color pigments that are absorbed into the paper fibers. When an individual tries to wash or lift the inked information written on the document, the ink remains "trapped" within the fibers of the paper, helping prevent check or document washing.

According to the American Bankers Association, check fraud is growing 25 percent each year. Combined with the fact that nearly 90 percent of those surveyed still write checks by hand each month, the potential for problems is real.

"With the majority of people still writing checks on a consistent basis, applying the right tools such as the pen you use could save you thousands of dollars and endless hours of headaches," said Frank.

"We are happy to team up with Mari to bring useful advice in helping prevent identity theft," said Howard Heckes, president of Sanford North America, marketers of uni-ball pens. "Our goal is to help ease the minds of individuals when signing sensitive materials - from legal and medical documents to checks and tax forms."

Survey Says

The survey findings raise concern. Approximately 57 percent of people have had some form of identity theft happen to them or someone they know, yet only 34 percent are very concerned about becoming a victim themselves.

And, despite the popularity of online banking and other technology, check writing still has its place, evidenced by the 42 percent of respondents who pay bills specifically by check. Among those, a startling 80 percent of those check-writers do not use a gel pen, like the uni-ball 207.

Advice From A Victim

The survey findings, released in conjunction with uni-ball's "Secure Your Signature" campaign and October's Crime Prevention Month, illustrate Americans' need to make smarter choices when it comes to protecting sensitive information. Frank, once a victim herself, offers the following tips to help prevent individuals from becoming victims:

  • Don't carry personal information you don't need. Empty your wallet of all extra credit cards and other confidential information. Do not carry any identifiers such as your birth certificate, social security card, or passport, unless necessary.
  • Print wisely. Don't print your Social Security number on your checks. Retailers do not need your SSN, but thieves do. Also, do not print your full name on checks. Instead, put your initials and last name on your checks.
  • Limit account access. Take precautions against illegitimate access to your bank accounts. Write to your bank and ask them to notify you by phone or in writing if anyone requests your records. Place a unique password on your accounts.
  • Choose credit over debit. It's safer to use a credit card rather than a debit card. If your debit card number is used without your authorization, the money is immediately depleted from your bank account. If someone uses your credit card, you have the opportunity to dispute it before you pay it.
  • Permanent Sign Off. Use a uni-ball 207 gel pen when signing checks. The pen's pigmented ink cannot be washed from checks or other important documents.

For more tips on identity theft prevention or a list of the top 50 cities at risk for identity theft, visit secureyoursignature.com.

About uni-ball®

Part of the Newell Brands portfolio of leading consumer brands, uni-ball is a world leader in providing an optimal writing experience, offering writing instruments with superior functionality and affordability. From the JetStream® pen's smooth write to the intense color and superior performance of the uni-ball 207 gel pen, the brand allows one to enjoy the ultimate in writing performance coupled with a distinctive, contemporary style. Visit www.uniball-na.com for more information.

About Mari Frank, Esq.

An attorney, author, and Certified Information Privacy Professional, Frank is the author of Safeguard Your Identity: Protect Yourself with a Personal Privacy Audit and dozens of nationally published articles. As a certified privacy professional, Frank has consulted many law enforcement and governmental agencies on privacy issues, as well as some of the nation's top corporations and financial institutions. A leading expert on identity theft and privacy, Frank has also shared her expertise and insights via countless national and local television news organizations, radio programs, and print publications.

About the ITRC

The San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) is a non-profit (501(c) 3) organization established in December 1999, to support victims of identity theft in resolving their cases, and to broaden public education and awareness in the understanding of identity theft. Founders Linda and Jay Foley have dedicated themselves to assisting other victims, researching identity theft and increasing public and corporate awareness about this problem.

This research project was conducted by Impulse Research Corporation for uni-ball, in order to evaluate men's and women's knowledge and experiences with identity theft. The survey was conducted online with a random sample of 1,098 men and women, ages 18 and up, who are all members of the CyberPulse™ Advisory Panel. The Advisory Panel has been carefully selected to closely match US population demographics. Research was conducted in September 2007. The overall sampling error for this survey is +/- 3% at the 95% level of confidence.

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Susan Wassel

susan.wassel@newellco.com

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