Legal, Regulatory, and Privacy Issues

Card offer in someone else’s name probably not ID theft


Keep up your guard, but sometimes junk mail is just junk mail

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Dear Credit Wise,
A prequalified credit card offer came to my address and a fake name on it, how do I get this removed since I’ve now gotten another prequalified credit card with the same fake name on it? Please help … I can’t be the only one? Is this part of phishing? — J

Dear J,
Be assured you are not the only one that has received these types of mailings. Prequalified credit card offers are a common tool that banks use to get new business. Chances are the “fake name” you refer to is on some mailing list that was bought by the companies who send out these types of mailings. Someone with that name may have lived at your address at some point, or a clerk somewhere made a data entry error.

While I wouldn’t be too worried, I would suggest you to take this opportunity to do some routine personal finance maintenance. That’s because though the risk is small, there is another possibility: Someone may be attempting a type of identity theft using your address.

If you haven’t done so already, check your credit report at or at and look for suspicious activity. Pay special attention to new accounts and recent inquiries. If you see something you don’t recognize, report it to the credit reporting agency immediately.

The chances that this has happened are fairly remote in my opinion, since the accounts would not be in your name. However, it won’t cost you anything to check it out and will give you some peace of mind. It is a good idea, no matter what, to check your credit report on an least an annual basis, which is why exists in the first place.

It’s more likely that what we are talking about here is junk mail, so while you’re motivated, take some action to protect yourself — not from identity theft, but from annoyance. The Federal Trade Commission’s Web page, “Stopping Unsolicited mail, phone calls and email” is a good place to start. You can take the steps outlined in the FTC’s posting to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. However, because the mail you are concerned about is addressed to a name that is not your own, this will likely not be much help in stopping this particular type of mail that you have been receiving.

Assuming it is bulk mail, about all you can do is mark “refused” on the envelope and return it to your mailbox for pickup. The carrier will discard it. In the unlikely event it is first-class mail, mark it “return to sender” and it will be sent back to the mailer. If you’re curious about your rights as a mail customer, you can peruse the U.S. Postal Service’s description of services for mail recipients.

If you decide you are just not going to worry about it anymore, don’t just throw the mail away without at least shredding the personal information that includes your address. As you have found, just having your address can be used by others to create a nuisance for you.

Be wise with your credit!

See related: Shredded bliss: 5 tips for picking the perfect paper shredder

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