Due to a huge response to Friday's column on avoiding identity theft, we're revisiting the subject, with additional ways to opt out of preapproved credit-card offers.
Credit-card companies buy and sell your personal information, so opting out of their prescreened credit-card offers is no easy task. In fact, they make it downright difficult.
Still, there are several ways to opt out of receiving credit-card offers that otherwise can jam your mailbox. One is by telephone - the number we included in last week's column - and that automated telephone service immediately asks for your Social Security number.
Consumers opt out directly by calling the toll free number: 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688). The major credit bureaus in the United States set up this service. It is a legitimate phone number.
However, if the prospect of typing in your Social Security number over the phone terrifies you, there are alternatives to opt out of prescreened credit cards.
Credit bureaus Equifax, Experian, Trans Union, and Innovis allow consumers to opt out online at www.optoutprescreen.com.
Be aware, on the website there's an option to NOT include your Social Security number as an identifier. You can opt out of offers without including your Social Security number. Just pay attention to the process. It can also take weeks for the "opt-out" to go into effect.
Third, we checked with Alan Kaplinsky of the Ballard Spahr law firm in Center City, who specializes in consumer credit issues. He reiterated that under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers can opt out of receiving all prescreened offers of credit, including credit-card offers, by notifying the credit bureaus in writing.
Visit each credit bureau website, or call them individually for the correct address.
Speaking of credit cards, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently issued a report highlighting "areas of concern" that may pose a risk to consumers:
Add-on products, such as debt protection, identity-theft protection, and credit-score monitoring.
"Fee harvesting" in the form of application and other fees charged before account opening. Although such fees are not counted toward the CARD Act's limit on first-year fees (which cannot exceed 25 percent of the consumer's credit limit), the CFPB nevertheless intends to monitor such fees "to determine if it should take action."
Deferred interest products, with the CFPB's finding that it is "unclear whether [vulnerable] consumers appreciate the high-interest-rate risk that might occur at the end of the promotional period."
Rewards-program disclosures and practices. The CFPB questioned whether specific actions required to earn rewards and formulas for computing rewards were adequately disclosed. The bureau raised concerns about the complexity of program terms involving the value of reward points, and redemption and forfeiture rules.