Tired of Receiving Unwanted Credit Card Offers?
Have you received unwanted offers in the mail stating that you have been “preapproved” for credit or insurance? Ever wonder how those companies get your name?
Unfortunately, federal law allows national credit bureaus to sell so-called “prescreened lists” to creditors and insurance companies, who then use the information to make unsolicited offers to consumers. The solicitation often uses just enough personal information to make the consumer believe that the sender knows something about the consumer’s credit rating and ability to repay a loan. But such solicitations are made without regard to any real assessment of whether the consumer can afford the “new” loan or whether the loan’s terms are favorable.
Keep reading to learn how to “opt out” of receiving such offers and having your information sold by the credit bureaus.
How Does Prescreening Work?
It helps to understand how prescreening works. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) allows companies to request the identity of consumers so that it can send them unsolicited offers. In the prescreening request, the creditor or insurance company asks the credit bureaus, like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to sell it a list of consumers who satisfy specific credit criteria so that the company can send those consumers a “firm offer.”
One of the most common uses of prescreening involves a credit card company extending a preapproved credit card offer based on the consumer meeting a minimum credit score. Such offers may also involve other credit products such as home equity lines of credit, “live check” loans (i.e., sending a check made payable to the consumer), student loans, and automobile loans.
A consumer may also receive unsolicited loan offers shortly after he or she applies for a loan. This happens because when you apply for a mortgage, the lender typically obtains a copy of your credit report. This results in an “inquiry” on your credit report from a mortgage lender, which signals to other mortgage lenders that you may be in the market for a loan. Based on this information, you may receive unsolicited letters from competing mortgage lenders indicating that you have been preapproved for a loan.
FCRA requires that all prescreened credit and insurance offers include a “clear and conspicuous” statement that provides the following notice:
- that information contained in the consumer’s credit report was used in connection with the unsolicited offer;
- that the consumer received the unsolicited offer because he or she satisfied the criteria for credit worthiness or insurability used to generate the marketing list;
- if applicable, that the credit or insurance may not be extended if, after the consumer responds, he or she does not meet the criteria used or does not furnish any requested collateral;
- that the consumer has the right to prohibit further use of information contained in his or her credit report from being used in connection with any future unsolicited offers for credit or insurance; and
- how to opt out from receiving future unrequested prescreened offers.
Federal law allows consumer reporting agencies to provide the following information to creditors and insurers:
- the name and address of the consumer;
- an identifier that is not unique to the consumer and that is used by the person solely for the purpose of verifying the identity of the consumer; and
- other information pertaining to a consumer that does not identify the relationship or experience of the consumer with respect to a particular creditor or other entity.
How to stop prescreened offers:
FCRA allows consumers the right to “opt out” of receiving prescreened offers of credit and insurance for either five years or permanently by using a toll-free number or making the request in writing.
To opt out by phone:
To opt out by telephone, consumers may call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567- 8688). You will be asked to provide certain personal information, including your home telephone number, name, Social Security number, and date of birth. Federal law provides that the information you provide is confidential and may only be used to process your request.
To opt out online:
Consumers may also opt out of prescreened offers online at www.optoutprescreen.com. When registering online, consumers do not have to provide their Social Security number or date of birth (although the online service encourages supplying such information to assist processing the request). Requests to opt out made by telephone or online are effective as to the four major credit reporting agencies and expire five years after notification.
To opt out in writing:
Consumers may also opt out of prescreened offers by writing to the individual consumer reporting agencies at the following addresses:
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123
P.O. Box 919
Allen, TX 75013
Innovis Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 495
Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0495
Name Removal Option
P.O. Box 505
Woodlyn, PA 19094
When mailing your written request, you should include the following information:
- complete name,
- full address,
- previous address (if you’ve moved in the last six months),
- Social Security number,
- date of birth, and
Permanent Opt Out:
Consumers may also permanently opt out from receiving prescreened offers by mailing in a signed Permanent Opt-Out Election form, which is available online at www.optoutprescreen.com. You may also send a written request to each consumer reporting agency for its Permanent Opt-Out Election form at the above-addresses.
Opt-out requests must be processed within five business days, although it may take up to 60 days before the consumer stops receiving prescreened offers.
If you have questions, contact the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office as follows:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-3353 (Twin Cities Calling Area)
(800) 657-3787 (Outside the Twin Cities)
TTY: (651) 297-7206 or TTY: (800) 366-4812
Guarding Your Privacy
Identity theft is on the rise nationwide and is helped along by lenders and creditors who are willing to grant thousands of dollars in credit in mere minutes with little or no proof of identity. This booklet will help you guard your privacy, protect your personal information and avoid identity fraud.
Reducing Unwanted Calls and Mail
The Attorney General’s Office offers the following tips for reducing telemarketing calls and unwanted mail, including placing your number on the National Do Not Call List and how to "opt out" of mailing lists.
Credit reports include information about a person's account and repayment history. Information in a credit report impacts how much a person pays for loans and other credit and sometimes whether a person can get credit.