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consumer alert

I just got this note forwarded to me and it seems legit:

    The four major credit bureaus in the US will be allowed, starting July 1, to release your credit info, mailing address, and phone number to anyone who requests it. If you would like to prevent this, you can call 1-888-567-8688. It only takes a minute, and you can take care of anyone else in the household (you just need to know their social security number). Be sure to listen closely – the first option is only for two years, so make sure you wait until they prompt you to press 3 to opt out permanently.


UPDATE 7.28.01: Conscientious reader Tara reports that the email quoted above is a tad misleading. The number is, indeed, the opt out number for a group of credit agencies, but the situation isn't as dire as the email makes it sound. Here's the real scoop:

FEATURE/FTC Consumer Alert: Consumer Credit File Privacy. The Real Deal

Business Editors

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE FEATURES)--July 27, 2001--Here's a prime example of "Don't believe everything you read" - especially when it comes via e-mail from someone you don't know.

Many consumers nationwide recently received the following e-mail:

"Just wanted to let everyone know who hasn't already heard, the four major credit bureaus in the U.S. will be allowed, starting July 1, to release your credit info, mailing addresses, phone numbers... to anyone who requests it. If you would like to "opt out" of this release of info., you can call 1-888-567-8688. It only takes a couple of minutes to do, and you can take care of anyone else in the household while making only one call, you'll just need their social security number."

The Federal Trade Commission wants you to know that this e-mail is full of half-truths and misinformation.

Here's the story:

-- Credit bureaus can release your credit information only to people with a legitimate business need, as recognized by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). For example, a company is allowed to get your report if you apply for credit, insurance, employment, or to rent an apartment.

-- Lenders and insurers may use information in your credit file as a basis for sending you unsolicited offers. This is known as "prescreening." The toll-free number - 1-888-567-8688 - is the "opt-out" line for the major credit bureaus for "prescreened" offers only.

-- The July 1 deadline relates to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB), which set July 1, 2001 as the deadline for financial institutions to give you notice of their privacy policies and a way for you to opt-out of some of their information-sharing practices. You may recall getting mailings or statement inserts recently from your financial institutions, creditors, insurance companies and brokerage firms about this. The July 1 date is not a deadline for consumers to do anything. In fact, consumers can contact their financial institutions anytime to opt-out under GLB.

-- The FTC strongly advises that you not give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you know who you're dealing with. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers and even government agencies to get you to reveal your Social Security number, mother's maiden name, financial account numbers and other identifying information. Legitimate organizations with whom you do business have the information they need and will not ask you for it.

For More Information

To learn more about your privacy rights under the FCRA and GLB, contact the FTC. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them.

To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 877/FTC-HELP (877/382-4357), or use the complaint form at

Looks like I fell victim to Yet Another Net Hoax. When will I learn?

{ 2:08pm }



» The phone number is real; I found it on Equifax' web site as well, and it's part of a Fair Credit Reporting Act program.

However, I think the chain letter you received is either designed to scare, or came from someone slightly underinformed.

1. They already sell your name and address (as part of a list) to anyone asking for a particular demographic, which is how They know when to send you an offer for a cheesy secured credit card.

2. Access to the rest of the information is governed by the FCRA, limited to people who have permission and/or a legitimate need for it. Your (relative/significant-other/stalker) can't legally get it.

3. The 888 number is just a marketing opt-out.

That said, maybe everyone SHOULD call the 888 number and opt out of the mailing lists to screw up their marketing plans. (muhuhuahah.)

Wanna see a partial list of Equifax's scary product line? Click here.

– -Bob-  { 7.28.01 @ 3:20pm }

» So, does this mean that since I called this number and "opted out" that I can be assured I didn't give my info to some identity thief? My son sent the e-mail and I called before "thinking".

– Sharon Tarpley  { 8.22.01 @ 12:36pm }


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