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How to Opt Out of Junk Mail to Protect Identity


There are complete industries built around collecting, massaging and selling your data – your name, phone number, address, spending patterns, surfing habits, net worth, the age of your children, the magazines you buy, etc. Companies buy bits of your privacy so that they can knowledgeably market products to you that you are likely to purchase. The problem is, that data, once collected, is often breached by hackers who want to know more about you.

To minimize the amount of your personal information bought and sold on the data market, begin “opting out”.  Opting out is the process of notifying organizations that collect your personal information to stop sharing it with other organizations. “Pre-approved” credit card offers (i.e., financial junk mail) are a major source of identity theft. Those mailers give thieves an easy way to set up credit card accounts in your name without your consent. They spend money on the card and default on the balance, leaving you with the mess of proving that you didn’t make the purchases. The solution is to opt out of receiving pre-approved credit, home loan and insurance offers as well as mass marketing databases.

Pre-approved credit offers (also called pre-screened or pre-qualified credit offers) are possible because credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and Trans Union – companies that collect and sell financial data on nearly every American) make a great deal of money selling your identity (i.e., name, address, phone number, age, credit score) to credit card, loan and insurance companies.  But it is your right to stop the sale of your information.

Fortunately, there are ways for you to “opt-out” of widespread information sharing (see the list of more than 120 ways below).

The Top 4 Opt-Out Opportunities:
  1. www.OptOutPreScreen.com. Remove yourself from the marketing lists sold by the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There is not cost for this list.
  2. www.DMAchoice.org. This puts you on a Do Not Mail list for the Direct Marketing Association. This is a free service online ( $1 by mail) and allows you to remove yourself from receiving previously unsolicited catalogs, magazines, “other” mail offers, and provides a link back to OptOutPreScreen for credit offers.
  3. White Pages. That’s right, your old-fashioned printed phone directory is the source for most of the online contact info databases. To remove your directory listing you have to contact your local phone company .
  4. www.Spokeo.com. To opt out, read this blog post about [intlink id=”1752″ type=”post”]removing your info from Spokeo[/intlink]. This is one of the more utilized sites by identity thieves, stalkers and scammers.

There is a slower and more tedious process of opting out of online directories (i.e., you have to visit every one. Some (Spokeo.com)  are more important than others (Whitepages.com) because of the information that they collect. Sites such as Spokeo.com can have as much information as your physical address and pictures of your home, while others may just house your phone number. These sites spend hours upon hours scouring public records such as marriage licenses, birth certificates, and real estate purchases for this type of information.

Since most online directories typically offer a way to opt out of their listings you would think they would make it easy. Not so. They tend to hide this option deep within the site, as they don’t actually want you to leave. Luckily, The Privacy Rights Clearing House has done most of the legwork in their Comprehensive Opt Out List. I suggest starting with a few main sites, 123people.com, spokeo.com, etc. and continuously adding to it over time. Opt out of one a week if you like, and eventually your data will be less exposed. Protecting your privacy and identity is a layering process. It is easy for people to get overwhelmed, especially when it comes to online directories.

John Sileo is an award-winning author and international speaker on the dark art of deception (identity theft, data privacy, social media manipulation) and its polar opposite, the powerful use of trust, to achieve success. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which advises teams on how to multiply performance by building a culture of deep trust. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, and Homeland Security. Sample his Keynote Presentation (he shares how he lost $300,000, 2 years and his business to data breach) or watch him on Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes or Fox Business. 1.800.258.8076.

Identity Theft Prevention this Holiday Season

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AAA Hawaii’s Annual Holiday Season Travel and Shopping Poll of 250 local residents reveals that 76% plan to primarily shop this holiday with credit or debit cards. However, almost four in ten of surveyed shoppers have little or no concern about identity fraud happening to them this holiday shopping season! Identity theft is rampant throughout the holiday season. Over the past 3 years stolen data being used in less than one week jumped from 33% to 71%, meaning that they steal today and shop today.  Identity thieves count on our lackadaisical attitude toward monitoring our wealth.

Not only does legitimate business pick up during the holiday season, but Identity theft and fraudulent Business seems to be on the rise as well. Especially during these hard economic times Identity thieves are on the prowl more than ever looking for a quick fix to their financial problems.  It is just not possible to observe and ward off every threat to our identity. There will be documents that you forget to destroy or lock up, accounts that you won’t cancel, checks that you will mail, and waiters that will disappear with your credit card. It is not practical to think that we can cover every situation that threatens the safety of our identity. But we are not helpless in these situations.

Like an experienced spy, we have a solid backup plan. It is extremely important to monitor the key components of our identity especially during the Holidays. Over 50% of all Identity theft is self detected. Here are a few tips to stay safe and keep an eye out for Identity Fraud this Holiday Season:

Monitor Your Credit Report Look for any suspicious activity or unknown accounts. If you find anything new that you haven’t applied for contact the responsible financial institution immediately.

Credit Monitoring Services Services that companies offer make it easy to ensure that fraudsters aren’t accessing your personal information, accounts, or credit. Allowing them to do it for you will put you more at ease this Holiday Season.

Sign up for Account Alerts This way you will know immediately if anyone is making fraudulent charges on your account.

Switch to Online Statements This way you can more easily access your accounts throughout the month rather than waiting until the end of the month for a statement.

 

Read More About Protecting Your Identity During the Holidays.

John Sileo became America’s Top Identity Theft Speaker & Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To learn more about bringing John to your next meeting or event, contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Discover and Recover Quickly from Identity Theft in 2010

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Since you can’t protect yourself 100% from identity theft, make sure that you Monitor the Signs! Heading into a new year people make many resolutions that they may or make not stick with, but protecting your identity should always be a top priority. Here are 3 effective tips to help discover and recover quickly if you become the victim of identity theft:

  1. Create a Dossier – A dossier is a collection of documents that are stored in a fire-safe and that you regularly review and update. It is a paper summary of your identity as the outside world sees it (businesses, organizations and governments). It is made up of several key documents: your credit report, bank and credit card statements, Social Security statement, wallet photocopies and your password list. Virtually any of your vital documents could be included in your dossier as well (birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc.). A dossier is a place where you can quickly access a complete record of your vital information in case your identity is stolen and you will have the necessary account and phone numbers at hand to cancel credit cards, bank accounts and to file credit disputes. And you can do it quickly.
  2. Order and Monitor Your Credit Report and Set up regular calendar reminders every 4 months for your next Credit Report. A credit report is a historical record of how you pay off money you borrow from others. There are currently three main credit bureaus in the United States—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Credit bureaus track your credit history, generate credit scores and produce credit reports—all for sale to other businesses. If you own a home, have a credit card, lease a car, or apply for or use credit of any sort, this information is reported to one, two or all three of these credit bureaus. In addition, they collect information on how timely you pay your bills, how often you are tardy, how frequently your credit is checked by companies and any changes of address, employment, or personal information. By monitoring these reports closely, you will know when someone else is using your credit file to their benefit. If an identity thief opens a new credit card or loan on your Social Security number, you will see it on your report. The quicker you spot the problem, the less trouble it will cause. You can also sign up for an Identity Monitoring Service and Identity Theft Insurance.
  3. Set up Account Alerts bank, credit card and investment accounts and make sure you check your monthly statements for any suspicious activity. Account alerts automatically notify you by email or text message (to your cell phone) when a transaction is made on your account. For example, if you make a purchase on your credit card, it will automatically send you an alert detailing how much was spent, where you spent it, and on what date. They will also alert you when a payment is due or is not received on time or when private information is changed on the account (often a sign of fraud). Alerts are a simple way to keep track of credit card usage, bank transfers, low account balances, investment moves and a handful of other helpful tasks without doing any extra work.

These 3 simple changes make a world of difference when it comes to protecting your Identity. Early detection will save you time and money in the long run. Make it a priority to protect your identity in 2010 for a safe, successful and headache free year!

John Sileo became America’s leading Identity Theft Speaker & Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC.  To learn more about having him speak at your next meeting or conference, contact him by email or on 800.258.8076.