Friday, December 22, 2006

Information About Credit Card Pre-Approval Offers (Help Protect Yourself From Identity Theft)

I was just reading a blog called Hot Water Bath. Marsha was complaining that she is getting many credit card pre-approval letters, often numerous offers per day. I was then moved to write her an email. I have turned it into a blog post.

Did you ever wonder how a company knows that you are a person that they’d like to open a credit card account with? Did you assume they send out random letters to everyone, just based on knowing your name and your residence address? That is not how they do it.

The starting point is the credit bureaus. The three credit bureaus collect your personal information and compile it into a “credit report”. Most people already know that.

But did you know that the credit bureau’s actually SELL your supposedly confidential information to each company that you are getting letters from? It is true. Yes, they are making money off of your supposedly private information. Does that bother you?

Also, that means also that employees of said companies have access to your supposedly confidential information. Now I do not know if this information is processed by computers and not humans but I don’t want anyone or any data bank gathering, analyzing, and storing my confidential information (what if someone hacks their computers?)

Think about it: if you get three offers per week, that means that three credit card companies who have looked at your data and decided you are the type of customer they are looking for. After all, they don’t usually target their marketing to poor credit risks—they look for people who fit a certain demographic, those who own a home, perhaps, or a home worth a certain amount (known by the amount of the mortgage on your credit report). They also of course look at your credit history, how often you make late payments vs. pay your bills on time.

I have two issues with this:

1. For each offer that you or I get we are now opened up to multiple opportunities PER COMPANY to have our identity stolen

2. Why should the credit bureau make money off of our confidential information---which----by the way---they want to charge US to view just to see if there are any errors on their part or if anyone is actively stealing/using our identity?

Another thing to think about: I think we should all be given at least two free credit reports per year to monitor errors and to monitor for identity theft. However, the last I knew, some companies were charging $60 or more per year to individual people (not to the whole family) to have unlimited access to view their credit reports throughout the year.

Back to this selling of your private information and the pre-approved credit card offers…
In a very easy step you can contact all three credit bureaus and tell them to remove you from their marketing list. I can’t remember the official phrase for what you are to ask for but they use some term.

I am very sensitive to these credit bureau issues as my identity was stolen in December 1999 while Christmas shopping for a toy for my oldest child, by a cashier in a retail local store. That same, old information was used again in July 2003 and then in December 2005. So I am still fighting an identity theft battle that all started in 1999. And again, none of it had anything to do with the Internet, which most people think is the number one way that personal information gets stolen—well that was not my experience.

In the middle of that process about dealing with my identity theft, I found out about the credit card pre-approval thing where they sell our data and boy did that tick me off.

So if you want to put a stop to these pre-approved credit card offers, I would suggest that you ask the 3 credit bureaus to stop selling your data and it will:

1. Not let them make money off your private data

2. Protect you from identity theft in one way

3. Save some trees/paper

4. Save a little from the trash heap or the recycle plant

5. Stop annoying you when you receive them, if it bothers you

In case you don’t believe me, I have found this site which gives this same information that I already knew about. This site has the names of the three credit bureaus in America and tells how to contact them by snail mail or by phone. If my memory serves me correctly you can do this request over the phone by telling or pressing touch-tone buttons on your phone after calling the credit bureau’s on the phone. They will be asking your social security number and other private information—that is normal and necessary, so have your data handy when you make the call.

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5 comments:

msantos3 said...

Hi Christine, We are entitiled to a free credit report each year from each of the 3 major ones. It is suggested to not get all 3 at once but stagger them throughout the year.
Here is some information:

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/credit/ycr_free_reports.htm

Merry Christmas and thanks for the great blog.

christinemm said...

I tried to get one last week from Equifax, and their website said that CT residents have to pay $5. The last I knew it was free as pet CT state law. And they charge other states higher prices. The specific request for CT to be $5 made me assume that the law had changed.

Also it said if I want my credit score it is an additional $7.95 for CT residents (interesting).

Then I saw that they will give a free online report due to my qualifying reason that I had been a victim "recent" identity theft and fraud. I was to view this online (not a paper report). It was rejected saying that my submitted information doesn't match their information on file. That is odd as I have not moved nor has anything changed since the last credit report (paper copies) that I received (from all three bureaus). Anyway Equifax said I had to print off their form and send in my request via snail mail and I must provide certain photocopies of documents which I don't even have, for example, a W2 form (I am unemployed) or a pay stub with SSN (again, not applicable). Plus I have to give other things like a rental/lease agreement (not applicable), pay stub with address (not applicable) or a utitily bill (they are in my husband's name). So for now I am stuck and just too busy with the holidays to deal with this garbage.

Grrr.

christinemm said...

OKAY I found out more information yesterday.

Everyone is entitled to one free credit report from EACH of the three credit bureaus, each year. I learned that on the FTC.gov website, here:
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/freereports/index.html

I kept hearing these TV commercials for FreeCreditReport.com where they say they will give a free credit report. I decided to get one through them yesterday, but before I could finalize the process they wanted me to say I agreed with their terms including paying any fees for products or services, and also, that I would promise to never take them to court for any reason, or something crazy like that. That got me curious, and concerned, so I did not finish the process.

Instead I did a quick Google search and found this page on the FTC.gov site
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/freereports/index.html
which explains very clearly that some TV commericals trick consumers into getting a so-called free report while giving them other services that they later try to collect a fee for.

I also learned on the FTC website that by clicking through the FTC site we can all get free credit reports.

I did that yesterday and was able to get two reports online and one company wants me to write in by snail mail with proof of identity.

Furthermore I am annoyed that when I tried getting said free report by going directly to the credit bureau's site they tried to charge me $5 as a CT resident. I saw on the FTC site that above and beyond the one FREE report per year there is a CT law that says they cannot charge a CT resident more than $5.30 for additional reports.

So my point here is that first,
1) beware the TV commercials offering free credit reports
2) read the FTC site
3) Click through the FTC site to get your free reports

I also advise that you get one from each company. Of the two that I looked at I found this:

1. One company was perfect on everything.

2. One company has my real legal name incorrect (spelled differently). That report also contained old information from my identity theft that was supposed to have been deleted off. Also there was an incorrect residence address for me. That was supposed to be fixed in 2003 and in 2005 after the identity theft was reported (it is the fake address the thief used that they have me down as really living at).

So you can see that two reports can tell very different information.

Who knows what the third report shows.

I am gathering the documents I need to prove who I am so that I can get that third report.

When you do this be sure to have your printer ready to print off the reports.

Now please go check your credit reports for accuracy!

christinemm said...

Oh one more thing the one FREE credit report does NOT include the "credit score". YOu must pay an additional fee for that "credit score" if you care what it is. I think that is something that a person would want to know if they were getting ready to take out a mortgage or a loan or something like that.

I have no need for that information right now so I am not spending money on that.

Steve Johnson said...

Yes, your blog entry is right on, it's so important that people do this to protect their identity online. We have compiled a variety of free reports that offer free tips on credit repair, preventing ID theft, debt reduction strategies, etc., at FindHow2.com
Thanks for a great blog!
Steve
FindHow2.com