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Legal, Regulatory, and Privacy Issues

How to reduce credit card offers in the mail

Summary

Federal law allows consumers to opt out of credit card offers.

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Chances are, each week your mailbox receives unsolicited credit card offers that promise such benefits as low interest, rewards or cash back.  In 2005 alone, 6 billion of these offers flooded the mailboxes of American consumers for an average of six credit card offers per household each month. Maybe you wish these mailings would stop. Perhaps you have had problems with credit card debt in the past and the last temptation you need is a new credit card.  Or perhaps you can’t stand junk mail. You may have no problem with credit cards, it’s just the endless stream of offers you could do without. Thanks to a new law that went into effect in the summer of 2006, you now have the right to demand a stop to unsolicited, preapproved credit card offers.

There is good reason to end the stream of junk mail offers for credit cards.  For one, there is the issue of security.  If you decide to apply for a credit card via the mail, it is less secure than applying over the Internet.  Also, identity theft becomes an issue when you have envelopes full of your personal information that anyone could steal and use to apply for a credit card in your name.  Gangs of thieves are known to target residential mailboxes for the identity-theft treasure trove unsolicited credit card mailings provide.

Federal law states that consumers have the right to opt of receiving these unsolicited credit card offers, which are based on your credit report.  To put a stop to the mailings, just dial 888-5-OPT-OUT or visit www.optoutprescreen.com online.

The service is run by the major credit bureaus, which provide banks with the information needed to screen you.  According to the association that represents the credit bureaus, by law, information on how to opt out must be included in every offer.  Whenever you receive a copy of your credit report, it should also include information on how you can be taken off any pre-screened credit card mailing lists.

If you decide to put an end to these credit card offers, expect to provide your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number.  You are not required to provide your date of birth and Social Security number in order to have you request processed, but according to the website, this information will help to ensure your request can be processed successfully.  The Social Security number helps to identify your unique record, since many Americans share the same last name.  This is despite the fact that some consumer rights advocates have expressed criticism of the credit-data industry for requiring Social Security numbers.

Once you opt out, companies still have 30 days to comply, so it will probably take a little while for the credit card companies to stop sending you offers.  Remember that you will continue to receive offers from your current bank or anyone you’ve done business with unless you get in touch directly with each of those businesses.

While you continue to receive unwanted credit card offers in the mail, be sure to dispose of them properly in order to more fully protect yourself. Tear the mailings into pieces or, even better, shred them using a cross cut shredder that makes it very difficult for even patient thieves to put the pieces back together.

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Published: September 6, 2006

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