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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:

Federal law allows consumer reporting agencies to provide the following information to creditors and insurers:

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.external link icon 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:

Equifax
Options
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123

Experian
Opt Out
P.O. Box 919
Allen, TX 75013

Innovis Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 495
Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0495

TransUnion
Name Removal Option
P.O. Box 505
Woodlyn, PA 19094

When mailing your written request, you should include the following information:

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.external link icon 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

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