APWU: Bank Pulls Misleading Ad From Airwaves


The Wachovia Bank Corp. has stopped airing a television commercial that strongly implied that home delivery of mail is a primary cause of identity theft.

On June 18, G. Kennedy Thompson, the bank’s CEO, responded to a letter from APWU President William Burrus that objected to the commercial’s characterization. Thompson said that the ad, also criticized by Postmaster General John E. Potter, had been pulled from the airwaves.

The ad featured an unidentified motorist stopping at a curbside residential mailbox, taking mail out, and speeding away, “I assure you that this commercial was in no way intended to put the U.S. Postal Service in a negative light,” Thompson wrote. “Wachovia is a significant customer of your services, and we consider the Postal Service an important ally in efforts to combat identity theft.”

In his May 30 letter to Thompson, Burrus noted that mail delivery was the dominant image of the TV commercial. In fact, only a miniscule portion of identity theft occurs through the mail.

The Federal Trade Commission does not include postal services among its six principal methods – such as skimming credit card numbers from transactions – which thieves use to gather personal information from victims.

Potter, in remarks at the National Press Club in Washington on May 30, commented that “phishing” for information via e-mail was widely perceived as an easy way to illegally obtain information. “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,” Potter said.

In the letter to Burrus, Thompson said, “I have reviewed the commercial and I do not believe it portrays the Post Office as negligent; rather it points out that identity theft and fraud are risks consumers face, and promotes Wachovia’s ability to help. However, I do understand your concerns, and your thoughts are important to us. As of last week, this commercial is no longer airing.

“As we plan for future commercials relating to fraud protection,” Thompson added, “we will certainly be cognizant of your concerns and will avoid any reference to the Postal system.”