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Banks, Law Enforcement Officials Join Together To Better Fight Identity Theft and Consumer Fraud

SEATTLE, Jul 27, 2005 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Nearly 100 representatives of banks and other financial institutions are meeting today with law enforcement agencies from all levels of government to develop improved ways for fighting identity theft and other threats to customer data security.

"We're hoping that as a result of today's discussions we can develop a strategic partnership between public and private sectors to share information and better use our combined resources to protect consumers from a growing national problem," said Brian Parker, senior vice president of risk management services for Washington Mutual, one of two co-sponsors of a day-long seminar to be held at the Leadership Center at Cedarbrook, in the City of Sea-Tac.

Identity theft is one of the nation's fastest growing crimes, costing consumers more than an estimated $1 billion annually.

Steve Cooley, district attorney for Los Angeles and one of the guest speakers, believes a regional identity theft center composed of law enforcement and representatives of financial institutions would be one way to better coordinate the anti-fraud effort. "We must protect personal identifying information the way we protect other valuable items," he said.

Cooley is a member of the National District Attorney's Association, which is seeking support from financial institutions for a new initiative to combat fraud detection and prosecution. The initiative proposes creation of a national training curriculum, standardized ways to obtain financial records, establishment of a witness transportation fund and development of a national contact list that facilitates cooperation.

"We need to work together more strategically and more consistently as a coordinated team," Parker said. "If we cooperate with each other we can reduce fraud and life will be better for consumers. By being consistent we can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of prosecutions at the state and local levels." The Sea-Tac meeting is believed to be the largest such gathering ever held in western Washington.

In addition to Cooley, panel speakers include Jonathan Fairtlough, deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County; Susan Storey, senior deputy prosecuting attorney in the King County fraud division, and Stan Belitz, vice president of security and risk service for MasterCard International, the other co-sponsor of the event. Agents for the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service will also participate as panelists.

Attendees will be welcomed by Norm Maleng, prosecuting attorney for King County.

About Washington Mutual

With a history dating back to 1889, Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM) is a retailer of financial services that provides a diversified line of products and services to consumers and commercial clients. At June 30, 2005, Washington Mutual and its subsidiaries had assets of $323.53 billion. Washington Mutual currently operates more than 2,400 retail banking, mortgage lending, commercial banking and financial services offices throughout the nation. Washington Mutual's press releases are available at www.wamunewsroom.com.

(Editor's Note: Reporters are invited to attend the afternoon panel discussion that begins at 1 p.m. at the Washington Mutual Leadership Center at Cedarbrook, 18525 36th Ave. South, City of Sea-Tac.)

SOURCE: Washington Mutual

For Washington Mutual
Monty Dennison, 206-419-6873 (Media Contact)