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April 2002
You Too, Can Stop Unwanted Credit Card Solicitations from Coming to Your Mail Box

Are you tired of opening up your mailbox and finding unsolicited
credit card offers from a variety of credit card companies, banks, and national retailers? Are you concerned about identity theft? Now YOU can do something about it.
Identity theft has become one of the top consumer protection issues in our country and here in Wisconsin. Criminals are literally driving down Wisconsin streets looking for the credit card offers you have thrown away in your garbage or recycling. These criminals use the credit card offers to apply for credit in your name and then use your good credit rating to go on a spending spree.
Unfortunately, victims—including several of my close relatives and friends—have shared with me the nightmare they went through trying to repair their damaged or destroyed credit ratings. However, you can protect yourself right now by first
shredding important personal documents such as credit card offers before you put them in your garbage or recycling. You can do even more by opting out of unsolicited credit card
offers. How can you do this?
Fortunately, the process is relatively simple. The three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union—have come together and created a process where you can opt out of receiving unsolicited credit card offers for either
two years or forever. All you need to do is to have your social security number in front of you and call toll free 1-888-567-8688. A recorded voice will come on the line and ask you several questions, including your home telephone number, name, zip code, street address, and social security number. Normally I advise consumers to not give out your social security number, especially if the person asking is someone who called you. After all, do you really know they are who they say there are? This is one of the very few times I recommend you go ahead and provide your social security number because it is needed to make sure you are the right John Johnson and not your neighbor John Johnson.
If you decide to remove your name forever, you will also receive a letter in the mail asking you to certify that you want to be permanently removed from receiving unsolicited credit offers. My wife and I have mailed back the certification letter and we no longer receive unsolicited credit card offers. Besides reducing the volume of recycling we put out on our street, we also have the sense we have greatly reduced our chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. Furthermore, several of our friends have reported that they have done this for their children or vulnerable parents to ensure they are protected as well.
Next time, I will continue writing about identity theft and what you can do to protect yourself. I will also focus on what to do if you become a victim. In future issues, I will strive to bring you useful consumer protection information that will make your life as a consumer easier.


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