Everyone gets them. Almost everyone throws them away (dangerous) or shreds them (better idea) without reading a single word. Unsolicited pre-screened credit card, loan, and insurance offers are the bane of most people’s mailboxes. Junk credit and insurance offers steal our time, risk our identities and finances, and cause substantial environmental damage.
One solution to reducing the amount of credit and insurance offers you receive is to Opt-Out through OptOutPrescreen. You can use their website (www.optoutprescreen.com) or their toll-free automated phone service (1-888-567-8688) to stop these companies from checking your credit report without your permission.
Opting-Out is simply a process that removes your name from the lists that Consumer Credit Reporting Companies (such as Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis) supply to companies that offer credit or insurance. Insurance and credit card companies use these lists to identify potential customers and to send you firm (also known as pre-approved and pre-screened) offers of credit and/or insurance if you meet their credit requirements. Normally these offers come in the mail but you may also receive them in a phone call or an email. Opting-Out should help reduce these types of offers as well.
Facts about Opting-Out through OptOutPrescreen:
- OptOutPrescreen was created by the four major credit reporting companies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion, and Innovis). It’s the only website and phone number authorized by the reporting companies to provide Opting-In and Opting-Out services.
- The website uses encryption and other security technologies to protect your personal information. Don’t forget to make sure the web address is https://www.optoutprescreen.com. The “s” in https means the page is encrypted.
- Opting-out does not affect your ability to apply for credit or insurance.
- Opting-out does not improve your credit score or change your score in any way.
- This Opting-out service is only for individuals. It is not intended for businesses.
- You cannot submit an Opt-In or Opt-Out for anyone other than yourself unless you are a legal parent, guardian, executor, administrator, etc.
- You cannot Opt-Out a child under 13 years old. Since the credit reporting companies don’t knowingly maintain files on minor children, if you think your child’s information is being used you’ll need to contact them directly.
- Joint credit relationships, such as a mortgage or credit card, will continue to generate pre-screened offers until everyone on the account Opts-Out.
- You can always Opt-In if you change your mind and want to start receiving pre-approved credit and insurance offers again.
- Read the fine print if you do apply for credit after Opting-Out. Many times they will state that they reserve the right to run credit checks and send you pre-approved credit applications if you sign the document. You will then have to Opt-Out again.
OptOutPrescreen provides you with three options:
- You can Opt-Out for five (5) years.
- You can Opt-Out permanently.
- You can Opt-In. This option is for people that have previously Opted-Out.
You’ll need the following information to Opt-Out:
- Social Security Number
- Date of Birth
Steps to Opt-Out using the Internet (takes less than 5 minutes):
1) Go to www.optoutprescreen.com and click the “Click Here to Opt-In or Opt-Out” button at the bottom of the screen.
2) Select whether to Opt-In, Opt-Out for 5 years, or Opt-Out permanently. (I chose permanently. I can always Opt-In again if I ever feel like it.)
3) Provide the personal information requested. Even your Social Security number. I don’t like it either but it’s necessary in this case. Fill in the security field and click “Confirm”.
4) If you chose to permanently Opt-Out the next screen is your confirmation and letter. There is a little link “click here to print” at the top. You’ll want to click that.
5) Once you’ve printed your letter just click on the “End Session” button to close the page.
6) As an added bonus, you will be put on the 5 year Opt-Out list while your letter is in the mail and processing. This takes 5 business days.
7) Sign and date the “Permanent Opt-Out Election Form” and mail it out. You can keep the confirmation page for your important papers file although I’m not sure what good it will do.
8) There is also a help page available on this site that provides answers to many frequently asked questions.
It can take up to several months to see a significant decline in unwanted insurance and credit offers. This is because your name is already “in the system” at a lot of places and it takes some time for them to mail their offers. Additionally, there are other ways for your name and address to get on mailing lists. Finally, Opting-Out won’t end mail from local merchants, charitable organizations, professional associations, and businesses that you already conduct business with. So don’t consider this a magic bullet that will solve all your junk mail concerns. Check out my other articles for more ways to eliminate junk mail from your life.
There are two financial benefits to reducing junk credit offers. First, you’ll have less trash. In many regions trash fees are assessed “by the container”. Reducing the number of trash containers you fill means money in your pocket. And if you’re recycling then less junk mail means fewer trips the recycling center. Either way it’s a win.
Secondly, unwanted credit and insurance offers puts you at risk for identity theft and credit fraud. Thieves can retrieve your personal information by stealing your mail or going through your trash. Criminals can steal your pre-approved credit application, fill it out, and go on a shopping spree once your new card arrives. Approximately 9 million Americans are the victims of identity theft every year. On average, identity theft will cost you $1,613 and over 164 hours to restore your credit rating.
Studies have shown that the average adult spends 70 hours a year dealing with junk mail. Reducing unwanted credit and insurance offers will help cut that number down and give you back a substantial amount of time.
The list of environmental damages caused by junk mail is too long to list here. But consider that every piece of unwanted mail had to be manufactured, printed, and transported to you. The consequences of that unasked-for credit or insurance offer include deforestation, habitat loss, water pollution, toxic waste, fossil fuel consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and more stuff in our already full landfills. Every piece of paper has an impact.