Office Supplies to Prevent Identity Theft and Fraud

Long post today, it covers Uniball pens, Paper Shredders, Privacy Screens, and a bunch of online resources.  Just my spin on how to use office supplies to keep your personal info protected.

I’m sure that many of you have already seen the above Uniball commercial that explains some of the benefits of their pens in preventing identity theft and fraud, and I know that there have been some other good posts on other pen review sites about these pens and the topic already, so I hope to add a little something different with my review here today.  When the PR folks from Uniball contacted me to offer me some of these pens to review, I wanted to try and make sure I not only provided the info on their pens in particular but also provide a bit more comprehensive view on preventing fraud and identity theft when it comes to other office supplies as well.  What I plan on doing with this post is the following:

  • Share my pictures of attempted check washing by comparing a Uniball pen and a “giveaway” type ballpoint pen.
  • Show some other office supplies that can help you reduce the likelihood of being a victim of fraud or identity theft.
  • Provide some resources for educating yourself on identity theft and reducing the chances of it happening to you.

Hopefully these photos and tips can help someone avoid the hassle and financial impact of being a victim of identity theft by making a few inexpensive and simple changes to their day to day activities.

Uniball and Check Washing:

Top check written with a Uniball Vision Elite.  Bottom check written with a cheap disposable ballpoint pen.

Top check written with a Uniball Vision Elite. Bottom check written with a cheap giveaway ballpoint pen.

The checks you see pictured above are examples of a standard check, the top one is written with a Uniball pen with their proprietary ink designed to help prevent check washing and other document fraud.  The bottom check is written with a cheap ballpoint pen that I got as a giveaway, you all know the type and I’m sure you have dozens of them strewn about in your drawers, purses, cars, and who knows where else.  As you can see right from the start, the top check written with the Uniball pen shows much more vibrancy and consistency, which is something I think we have all come to expect from Uniball pens.  When I started my research on check washing I came across lots of sites that attempted experiments with various chemicals and household products, so rather than doing extensive repeats of those experiments I thought I would just see what happened with my first attempt at check washing using stuff I already had on hand.  I am not going to go into detail discussing how to attempt document fraud, but just show you so you can get an idea of the basic concept.  My results certainly were not what I would consider passable if I actually wanted to commit fraud, however the results I did get are a bit eye opening when you consider the little time and no cost I incurred to do this.

QUick and dirty results - with little expertise you can see that just removing the non-Uniball ink from a check is not all that difficult.  Scary.

Quick and dirty results - with little expertise you can see that just removing the non-Uniball ink from a check is not all that difficult. Scary.

Again, in the above pictures, the Uniball written check is on the top, and the giveaway ballpoint is the bottom.    You can see that I have tried to erase the word “Two” from the amount line on both checks, and on the bottom check I also tried to remove the number two from the amount box.  You cant really tell, but in the picture with the Uniball written check, it took much more rubbing, and any ink that you see that is gone is more a result of the paper actually being worn away.  Now I dont think this check would pass anywhere if I re-wrote any old number in and handed it over to a teller at a bank, but in my mind, this experiment is convincing enough to make me believe that a criminal who is good at doing this and has the right chemicals would be able to pull off a much more convincing “edit” to my check.

I’ve heard plenty of responses to the Uniball video, and to check fraud in general that usually go like this:

“Yeah, but I only have like $200 in my checking account, who is going to steal that?”

The problem there is that nobody attempting this type of fraud really cares how much you have.  Chances are they will write it for a small amount, like a few hundred dollars as to avoid suspicion.  The real impact here is not that you end up getting a few hundred bucks stolen from you, but you are now in a position where you will likely have to pay your bank a fee for insufficient funds, and then you will incur late fees, and/or other penalties from your creditors who you will inevitably miss payments for.  So yes, big deal, someone steals the measly $200 that you have in your checking account, but tack on 3 or 4 late and insufficient funds fees and now you are up to another $200, not to mention that you probably end up with a lower credit score for your missed payments, and higher interest rates on everything as a result.

Bottom line, do yourself a favor and toss all of those old ballpoint pens OR donate them to a good cause such as this one that @dowdyism over on the Pen Addict supports.   Go out and buy some of these Uniball pens they even come in multiple colors.

What other Office Supplies can help?

2 shredded checks.  Why wouldnt you own a good paper shredder?

2 shredded checks. Would you want to put these back together? No? Then why wouldnt you own a good paper shredder?

To me, there is no good excuse NOT to own a good paper shredder, and if you do have one, use it on EVERYTHING that has your name, address, or other personal info on it.  There are some obvious items that we all know should make it to the shredder, such as bills, statements, and credit card applications, but there is one other thing that I always shred, and that is the address label for any magazine, catalog, or junk mail that has my name on it.  Often times these items have account information buried in them, and in other instances its just not secure to leave a full lable laying in your garbage because your name and address could be the missing piece to the puzzle for someone who is trying to fill out a credit card or loan application.  Fellowes makes some great paper shredders, and it so happens that they have a good one that is seriously discounted on Amazon.com right now. The Fellowes Powershred P-57Cs was originally $149 but is now reduced to $41 and it even qualifies for free shipping.

Laptop privacy screens are another easy way to make sure that wandering eyes dont pick up any personal or work related info if you do a lot of traveling with your laptop.  There are tons of people at an airport, and when you get on a plane you have lots of people in close proximity…its impossible to keep an eye on everyone and make sure that they cant see what you are doing on your laptop.  These privacy screens basically black out your display to anyone who is not sitting directly in front of the computer, so that shady guy next to you wont be able to see you updating your budget, paying your bills, or working on that sensitive presentation for work.

Other Resources:

  • First of all, The Uniball site has some great info regarding identity theft and its prevention.
  • Uniball has also partnered with the non-profit organization, Identity Theft Resource Center and also with Identity Theft Expert Robert Siciliano to help promote solutions for avoiding fraud, scams, and identity theft.  On Siciliano’s website, you can find resources for all sorts of anti-identity theft and fraud solutions, not to mention other security related issues.
  • Credit monitoring and alert services can be good and bad, you need to know what you are paying for and make sure you are not being over charged for something that you could get elsewhere for free.  In the past I have used MyFico.com and it was helpful because it alerted me to activity on a card that had been inactive for 6 months.  Apparently someone wanted to go skiing in Oregon and have me pick up the tab.  At the time, their service made sense for me, but you should investigate further for your specific needs.
  • Articles like this one from SmartMoney are helpful in cutting to the chase on what you really need, and if consumers are being taken advantage of.  I myself wonder how banks and financial institutions are not doing more to prevent fraud, but then again, if they can sell their customers something for $9.99 a month to “protect them” then I guess that answers my own question.
  • There is a great personal finance blog called Get Rich Slowly that has an older post on preventing identity theft.  Be sure to look at the comments from the readers as well.

So there you have it, some very basic and inexpensive steps that can help you to avoid you huge headaches and financial problems.  I really try to avoid long posts like this, but I’ve come across plenty of people who never give any thought to this kind of thing, and if a long post on my blog today helps even just one person avoid this, then its totally worth it.

©2014, Brian Greene. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. 1
    nrepose says:

    Nice job. This is a topic that everyone should take seriously. Nr

  2. 2
  3. 3
    dowdyism says:

    Great post – except for the whole Yankee check thing. ;)

  4. 4

    @nrepose – Thanks, and I agree. With the way the economy and our financial institutions are going now, there are even more risks out there.

    @Robert Siciliano – Thanks, very cool to have you stop by and leave a comment! :)

    @dowdyism – It only seems appropriate, I mean you always hear other fans complaining about the Yankees “just writing checks” right? I just hope that they use a Uniball when they sign those $100M deals. ;)

  5. 5
    Nosferatuia says:

    Great review, very informative!

  6. 6
  7. 7
    Rich Ward says:

    Good article, very useful information which everyone should be taking notice off, ID theft is a real problem

  8. 8
    Clay W says:

    Good reading. I believe, most people forget to shred or destroy their mailing labels, like you pointed out. The only reason why I do, prolly is because my grandmother always told me to rip up the mailing labels. I always use a crosscut shredder as they provide great security and less waste than strip cut shredders. Here is to paper shredding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *