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How to Protect Your Privacy in Three Easy Steps

Written by Nickel - 8 Comments

Are you sick and tired of opening up your mailbox only to find a boatload of junk? What about having your dinnertime interrupted by telemarketers? Beyond being incredibly annoying, this sort of stuff can actually pose a threat to your financial well-being…

Just think of all those pre-approved credit card offers that you’ve received over the years. What if they fell into the wrong hands? And guess what? Even tearing them up into tiny pieces isn’t enough to keep the fraudsters at bay…

So what’s a guy (or gal) to do? Simple — just follow these three simple steps and you’ll be well on your way to stemming the tide of unwanted contact.

Step 1: Drop by the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service (MPS) and opt out of unsolicited consumer mailings by doing one of two things… Either fill out their online form or print out and mail a hardcopy of the request. The hardcopy should go to:

Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 282
Carmel, NY 10512

The only downside to doing this is that they charge a $1 fee to verify your registration and protect against fraud. This is true whether you file online (where you’ll pay with a credit card) or via mail (requires a check or money order).

Step 2: Head on over to the National Do Not Call Registry and click the link to register a phone number. Punch in your phone number, enter an e-mail address (required for verification) and click submit. Within seconds you’ll have an e-mail containing a verification link. Click that link and you’re done.

Step 3: Finally, hop on over to OptOutPrescreen.com, which is the official website for opting in or out of pre-approved (firm) credit offers. It’s operated by the major credit bureaus, so it’s legit (more details here).

Simply click the button at the bottom of the front page and you’ll be presented with three options: opt-in, opt-out online or opt-out via hardcopy. Online requests are dead easy — just enter your name, address, birthday, and SSN and then click submit. Unfortunately, such requests are only good for five years. Hardcopy requests, on the other hand, are permanent. Lame distinction, but it is what it is.

Here’s a tip: if you select the hard copy option, it’ll file the request online and then present you with a printable form to sign and mail, so you’ll end up killing two birds with one stone (and a stamp).

This is where you should send the form if you choose to do the hardcopy:

Opt-Out Department
P.O. Box 2033
Rock Island, IL 61204-2033

Bottom Line: It takes just a few minutes to do all three steps, so do it. Now. Seriously.

And if you’re an over-achiever, feel free check out bonus step #4:

Bonus Step 4: Register for the DMA’s E-mail Preference Service to (potentially) reduce your load of unsolicited commercial e-mail. I haven’t actually bothered with this one, as virtually none of the spammers that target my e-mails addresses are the sorts of folks that would pay attention to such requests. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if adding your name to such a list would actually result in an increase of spam if the list fell into the wrong hands. Here again, registration is good for five years, and you’ll need to click a link in a verification e-mail in order to get your address added to the list.

A few things to keep in mind:
- These measures will only affect ‘legitimate’ companies that play by the rules.
- It’ll take awhile to notice the full effects of your requests, but this stuff does help. A lot.
- Opting out can cause you to miss out on potentially profitable credit card offers.
- And remember… If you move (like we did) you’ll need to do this all over again.

Published on December 12th, 2006 - 8 Comments
Filed under: Credit Cards, Identity Theft

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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8 Responses to “How to Protect Your Privacy in Three Easy Steps”

  1. 1
    Blaine Moore Says:

    When I get unsolicited junk mail, I take anything out that has my name or address or other personal info and then mail the rest of it (including the original envelope – torn up if I can’t fit it) back in the SASE. I figure why waste such a perfect opportunity to make them pay double postage for bothering me? It takes a little time out of my day, but it amuses me.

  2. 2
    tolak Says:

    I’m still looking for an effective way to stop the postal service from delivering any unsolicited mailing addressed to “Current Resident”. Safeway and local businesses work directly with the local postal service in some way I haven’t yet been able to get information on. I called USPS and they referred me to the Mail Preference Service listed above, but that service advises that it has limited applicability to local businesses and that I may have to contact each company directly.

    In my opinion I should be able to ask the postal service to not deliver any “current resident” type mailings to my mailbox. I’d love to hear any suggestions on this.

  3. 3
    Larry Nusbaum Says:

    How To Opt Out of Everything: http://millionairenowbook.blog.....thing.html
    If there is more please let me know

  4. 4
    Jill Finlayson Says:

    If you don’t have time to do the three steps above, or find yourself inundated by unwanted catalogs, consider GreenDimes. GreenDimes is a service that will remove your name from the DMA, optoutprescreen, and a whole bunch of other direct mail lists on your behalf, as well as unsubscribe you from any catalogs you no longer wish to receive. They also revisit the direct mail companies to keep you off the lists, and GreenDimes plants a tree a month for each member. All for a dime a day. Check it out at http://www.greendimes.com. Also makes a great gift – email or printable certificates available. Imagine less junk mail, more counter space, more time, and more trees in the new year!

  5. 5
    Lazy Man and Money Says:

    A good way to protect your privacy online is by using the TrackMeNot plugin – see more at my site or just look it up via a search engine. It works wherever Firefox does :-) .

  6. 6
    Michael Clark Says:

    To get any commercial postal mailer to stop mailing you stuff, file a Form 1500 on them. You basically declare that you think their mailing is sexually explicit. It has helped a lot for me. http://www.planetmike.com/jour...../junkmail/ I need to start it up again, there’s a couple new banks, real estate losers and grocery stores sending me stuff.

  7. 7
    WOW! Credit Cards Says:

    Great tips! Credit card solicitations can be annoying– especially when your mailbox is filled with them! I’ve used OptOutPrescreen.com to remove myself from mailings, and most of them have disappeared. Although I still get some junk mail, it’s not nearly as bad.

  8. 8
    Ruby Says:

    I have a concern: I am trying to build my credit score, and i made my name removed from lists for firm offers of credit or insurance because I was annoyed. Will the fact of remove my name from Experian, equifax, transunion, affect my credit score if for example I apply for a house loan?

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