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Identity fraud ad banned

Posted in 'Identity Theft' by Barry Stamp

16 November 2017

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a Royal Mail TV ad which aimed to increase the awareness of identity fraud. The TV ad shows a bank robbery by balaclava hooded thieves brandishing baseball bats. Instead of picking up cash lying on the ground, the robbers sought personal information from terrified bank customers under threat of violent force.

The leading media agency, Saatchi, was behind the ad, which Clearcast had approved and had recommended was to be shown only after the 9pm watershed, which it duly was. Seven complaints were received by the ASA, which assessed the Royal Mail’s comprehensive arguments to justify the ad, but concluded that the "ad was likely to cause fear and distress to viewers, in particular to victims of violence, without a justifiable reason".

The ASA understood the growing issue of identity fraud and noted "that the scenario of a bank robbery was chosen to emphasise the seriousness of the crime", but nevertheless “ noted that this was not among the common scenarios in which identity fraud was perpetrated. As a result, we (the ASA) considered that consumers would not be able to clearly see from the ad how they could protect themselves, for example by avoiding certain actions that could make them potentially vulnerable to identity fraud.

We have long held that whilst identity fraud is a nasty crime, it is relatively rare and losses from identity fraud are rarer still. There is a common misunderstanding that identity fraud is related to financial crime, involving stolen credit cards and the take-over of bank accounts. Instead, a great deal of identity fraud is used to provide identities for imported sex workers, to give a foil for serious drug dealing, to obtain NHS treatment unlawfully, and generally to do really bad things in your good name.

The use of a bank premises as the location for the TV ad would only serve to reinforce that misconception.

If you are worried about identity fraud, there are many things you can do to make yourself less of a target for identity fraudsters and almost all of them are free.

Barry Stamp

Barry is a Chartered Banker and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Credit Management. He has a degree in Statistics and Business Economics from the Open University. Barry writes mostly on news from the worlds of banking and mortgages.

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