I'm a college student, currently in my fourth year. I got a credit card in my name during my freshman year. I've carefully paid off the full balance every month, simply using the credit card for convenience as "plastic money" in an effort to build my credit rating. I appear to have done all too well.
I receive on the order of two or three new credit card offers every week. Apparently creditors just love college students, and they absolutely adore a college student with good credit. Some offers tell me that "All of the other students at Worcester Poly Inst are getting a card", and one offer was even themed as a supposed instant messenger conversation between two students.
It came to a head last month. I had been on vacation for a month and a half, during which time my mail had piled up. When I got home, fully two thirds of all of the mailings I received were credit card offers. Several times I received multiple competing offers from the same bank. I decided that I needed to take action.
As a conscientious credit card user, I rarely have the need to actually use the credit being offered to me. Balance transfers at lower rates simply do not interest me. Low limited-time APRs that expire in three months are equally unimportant. The environmentally conscious hippy inside me deplores the resources wasted to send me offers for credits I simply do not want. If I ever want a new credit card, I'll apply for it myself rather than responding to a pre-approval offer.
Fortunately, hidden away in the fine print of every single pre-approved offer sent to consumers is a paragraph stating how to prevent credit bureaus from including you in pre-screened lists. If you're like me and always end up throwing these offers away, I urge you to follow one of these procedures to notify the four credit reporting agencies of your request to opt out.
Opting out by mail
You can write to the four major credit bureaus individually to request that your name not be included on their pre-screened lists. Send a letter indicating your intention to opt out, including your phone number, name, ZIP code, mailing address, and Social Security Number to each bureau. If you've moved in the past six months, you should include your old address as well.
The information below was compiled by examining the websites of the bureaus in question and comparing the data found with the information in the fine print of my credit card offer. Equifax and TransUnion both hid the information in small links at the bottom of their pages, but who can blame them?
PO BOX 790123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123
TransUnion LLC's Name Removal Option
PO Box 97328
Jackson, MS 39288-7328
901 West Bond
Lincoln, NE 68521
Most people have only heard of the three credit bureaus above. Innovis Data Solutions seems to have snuck into the business quietly in 2001. Unlike the other three bureaus, Innovis Data Solutions does not directly sell credit reports to creditors. Instead, they help creditors compile marketing lists by providing two services: Failsafe and New Movers. FailSafe compiles a list of consumers who may present a credit risk, helping creditors pare down their marketing lists. New Movers is a monthly list of who's moved. That deluge of mail that arrives almost before you do at your new house is due in part to Innovis Data Solutions.
Innovis Data Solutions' website is a rather spartan affair devoid of much useful information. I can't seem to find an address to which to mail an opt out request. I imagine that an address could be found by calling their customer service number, but this is not necessary if you opt out by phone.
Notifying all bureaus with one phone call
1-888-5-OPTOUT is an automated service run jointly by the four main credit bureaus. With one phone call you can opt out of pre-screened mailings from all four bureaus.
- Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT.
- Select option 2 to skip a message about an internet email (described below).
- Select option 2 to opt out of mailings permanently. Be careful, because option 1 only opts you out for two years.
- Follow the prompts to enter your phone number, name, zip code, address, and social security number.
The service states that your request will be processed within 5 business days, and a "Notice of Election" form will be mailed to you.
Some controversy exists surrounding this number. How can we be sure that it is legitimate? Why is a social security number required?
To further confuse the issue, an email forward spread across the internet starting in July of 2003, spreading some mis-information about this phone number. Nevertheless, the FTC lists the phone number on their website, so I guess we can assume that it is legitimate.
Exercising my right
I chose to opt out using the 1-888-5-OPTOUT phone number. The process was simple, and I was told I would receive a letter confirming my intentions by mail within a week or two.