Opting Out for Peace and Security
Are you tired of finding your mailbox loaded with junk mail, especially unsolicited credit card, mortgage, and home equity loan offers?
Are you tired of your phone ringing with offers from telemarketers? Would you also like to do something to take your name out of circulation for various solicitations. Then read on.
Did you know that in about an hour, you can reduce the amount of junk mail and unsolicited offers in all forms that you receive? That's about the amount of time it will take you to opt-out.
Credit card companies, insurance companies, and mortgage companies use a process called prescreening to send "preapproved" offers to consumers. Companies may identify prescreening “targets” in two ways:
- The company (typically a financial company offering credit products or an insurer) asks a consumer reporting company for a list of people in their databases that meet specific criteria, such as a minimum credit score.
- The company provides the consumer reporting company a list of people and asks the company to identify those who meet specific criteria.
You receive these "preapproved" offers when you meet the criteria specified by the creditor or insurance company. Because the offer says you have been approved for credit, the OptOutPrescreen.com site calls these “firm” offers. Because the chance that you will be approved for credit are higher with “preapproved” offers, identity thieves target stealing this type of mail.
You can opt out of prescreening for 5 years or permanently at OptOutPrescreen.com or by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). These are the official services provided by the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry. If you choose to opt out permanently, you must mail a form that's available on the website. You can also opt in, if you change your mind after opting out. Note that on the second page of the website, the default setting is "opt in."
Protect Your Financial Privacy
There are two federal laws that affect how companies can share your personal information: The Financial Services Modernization Act, also know as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB), and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 (FACTA) amended the FCRA with regards to financial privacy as well as other changes.
Pay attention to all the “Sharing Your Information” or “Privacy” mailings you receive from various companies because they may tell you different things. Different companies provide different opt-out forms, too. So look for them. Here’s a summary of what the various laws require. You can see why it can be confusing!
The GLB requires your financial companies to notify you of the following items:
- They must explain that you have the right to prevent the sharing of your personal information with third parties (opt-out).
- They must disclose to you their policies to prevent unauthorized access to confidential financial information.
The GLB allows you to opt-out of having your personal financial information shared with non-affiliates with the exception of service providers and joint marketers.
The FCRA allows you to opt-out of having a financial company share your "creditworthiness" information with affiliates. Creditworthiness information may include your income, your debt level, how you pay your bills, and information you provide on credit applications.
The FCRA opt-out does not prevent information about the checks your write, the credit card charges you make, your deposits, withdrawals, and other items covered by the terms "experience and transaction" from being shared with affiliates.
FACTA gives you the right to opt-out of sharing information with affiliates for marketing purposes.
The FCRA opt out is usually included with the GLB privacy notice. Even though you may be given only 30 days to respond to the privacy notice, you can always opt out at any time. You must follow the opt out procedure spelled out in the notice to ensure that your opt-out is properly recorded. If you no longer have the notice, ask your financial institution for another copy or for the proper procedure.
To reduce those telemarketing calls, visit the FTC do-not-call website, or call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you wish to put on the list. (For TTY, call 1-866-290-4236.) The telephone number remains in the register until you choose to remove it, the number is disconnected and reassigned. You can register cell phone numbers as well as home phone numbers. Calls should drop off after 31 days. Registration won't stop all telemarketing calls. Calls from political organizations, charities, and telephone surveyors are still permitted. A company that you have done business with can call you for up to 18 months. If you call a company but don't buy anything, the company can call you for 3 months.
For more information about the National Do Not Call Registry, read this Q&A from the FTC.
You can also reduce the amount of junk mail in your mail box (not your email box). You can opt out of mailings by members of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) using their Mail Preference Service. Registration is good for 3 years. Visit their website, for more information about registration. You can register online (free) or by mail (costs $1). The DMA sends the updated "delete" list to its members every month, so you should see a reduction in junk mail in approximately 30 days after registering but it may take up to 90 days to be fully effective.
You can control much of the online marketing from companies you do business with by making sure to look for opt-out and opt-in boxes on their web sites.
When registering on a web site or making a purchase online, make sure to scroll to the bottom of every page in the registration or purchasing process. Some sites have been known to put opt-out/opt-in buttons at the bottom of pages, even below the submit/enter button. Many have even checked the opt-in box for you.
If you do business with a site regularly such as a retail site or a news site (any site you have to register for), you may also wish to check your profile or account information for any marketing options.
A big tip: Never respond to spam emails. Many scams and identity thieves hide behind what they hope will appear to be a tantalizing offer. Our advice is ignore them. If you open them, never click on any link or reply to any email address they suggest. Just can the spam.
Have you ever contacted a company for a specific purpose such as to pay a bill by phone or deal with a specific issue and have them try to offer you other services before the end of the phone call or email exchange? You don't have to listen to the spiel unless you want to. Be polite and tell the customer service rep that you understand that they have to “cross market” what the company tells them, but that you don't want to listen to it. Ask them to let their management know that you don't care for the process. Of course, if you are interested in the product, listen away.
Peace at last
Opting in or out of having your name and information shared for marketing purposes is your choice. Some folks like the mail. We like the lowered clutter level, the increased privacy, and the idea that we might be helping to save some trees for better purposes than junk mail.
The following facts sheets provide more tips for opting out and protecting your privacy.
From the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:
- Privacy Basics and Opt-Out Strategies
- Financial Privacy: How to Read Your "Opt-Out" Notices
- requently Asked Questions about Financial Privacy.
From the Federal Trade Commission: