A friend sent me an email that both cracked me up and intrigued me. Also, I figured it wouldn't hurt to share basic information on credit reports, your rights (as non-lawyer or bank officer me understands them) and where to go to find out more. PLEASE FORWARD THIS ARTICLE TO EVERYONE YOU THINK CAN USE IT. Just be aware this isn't the definitive list of info and that it's just a primer.
Anyhow, according to the email:
Tips for handling telemarkers:
Three words that work! Simply say, "Hold on, please," and set down the phone. Saying this while putting down your phone and walking off (instead of hanging up immediately) would make each telemarketing call so much more time-consuming that boiler room sales would grind to a halt. Then when you hear the phone company's beep-beep-beep tone you know it's time to hang up the handset, which has completed its task.
Tips for 'dead silence' phone calls:
Do you ever get those annoying phone calls with no one on the other end? This is a telemarketing technique where a machine makes phone calls and records the time of day when someone answers the phone. This is used to determine the best time of day for a human sales person to call back and get someone at home.
What you can do after answering if no one is there is to immediately start hitting your # button six or seven time as fast as possible. This should confuse the machine that dialed the call and it kicks your number out of the system.
Tips for stopping junk mail:
When ads are enclosed with your bill, return the junk with your payments. Let the senders throw their own junk away.
When you get preapproved letters in the mail for everything from credit cards to second mortgages or car warranty extension b.s., do not throw away the return envelope if it is post paid. Instead, send back junk mail in them! It costs them nothing if you throw the envelope away; but they pay by weight for the return postage, so stuff away. And even if you return it empty, they still pay the base postal rate! (Just be certain you send nothing with your name or personal information on it.)
One of Andy Rooney's ideas (60 Minutes)* ideas is to send other people's junk mail to other junk mail initiators. Send an ad for your local chimney cleaner to American Express in their post-paid return envelope. Send a pizza coupon to Citibank. If you didn't get anything else that day, then just send them back their blank application! [I'd remove identifying info so you don't open yourself up to identity theft. Also, I prefer to know my junk mail is being recycled, so I don't do this myself.]
The banks and credit card companies are currently getting a lot of their own junk back in the mail, but folks, we need to overwhelm them. Let's let them know what it's like to get lots of junk mail, and best of all they're paying for it...twice!!
AND NOW FOR MY OWN THOUGHTS & STUFF
How to get off the junk mail lists:
(I got this information some while back, partly via a post office handout and partly from articles and news bits here and there. I'm having to recreate it from scratch, so it's not as clear as it might be.) Basically, though, you are entitled annually to a free credit card report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. My state (Maine) required it before the federal regs went in some years ago, so I've been doing this periodically for the last decade. These reports can be confusing as hell to read, but can prove invaluable. You may see accounts you didn't know you had, which is when warning bells should be going off and you should be calling that company to discover whether you just forgot about it and never closed it properly, they failed to close it properly, or you were a victim of identity theft.
The "do not call registry" can be found here. List your mobile or home phone/fax number to reduce bad calls. A quick search can net you a state-run "do not call" list, as well, for many states.
Placing your numbers on those lists will not stop non-profits or political calls, though. What I do for those callers is be polite yet firm and state that I have a policy of refusing to give money to groups who pester me via phone, and please to send me something via mail (whereupon you can return the empty envelope, or, if you don't want them bothering you you can return a written request for the same thing.) And tell them that if they call you ever again you will never ever donate. It has worked rather well for me, at least.
How to protect your credit rating from being pinged all the time:
You may not know this, but your credit can be affected (especially if it isn't really great in the first place) by how many times it has been pinged lately. These "pings" (I don't know the industry term, sorry) can be mere looks at your credit so that entities can decide if they want to send you a pre-approved credit card application or other trawling maneuvers by credit card companies accomplished without your knowledge. But a bank loan officer told me when I bought my first house in 2001 that I'd been pinged myriad times and it had dropped my rating significantly. So I blocked my credit rating from being pinged unless I gave permission. You do that by writing the credit agencies and stating in writing that you want to be blocked from unauthorized (by you) visits. It also serves to reduce the junk mail!!! (I found the info for the first time in a "Real Simple" magazine issue in 2001 or 2002, and can't find it at the moment, but basically, start with requesting your annual credit report here.
The main three are Equifax, Transunion and Experian. You can request a printed version by phone or in writing at the following addresses, which I obtained by going on line to request the information. (I vastly prefer the written one; let them pay for my report, they make enough money off me already!) NOTE: Experian's online version is by far the most informative by way of being the easiest to actually read and comprehend. NOTE2: If you, like myself, are constantly calling to reduce the automatically-raised credit limits on your accounts, it can look suspicious to lenders. I, however, prefer that to having 12k-15k out there, available for hijacking, on several cards! NOTE3: You may opt-out of pre-screened junk mail with the nationwide credit bureaus at 1 888 5OPTOUT (1 888 567 8688) (see below).
Experian (contact info page, including for opt-out of prescreened offers)
P.O. Box 9556
Allen, TX 75013
800 493 1058
Transunion (contact info page, including for opt-out of prescreened offers)
Your credit rights (lifted from Experian's site):
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies. There are many types of consumer reporting agencies, including credit bureaus and specialty agencies (such as agencies that sell information about check writing histories, medical records, and rental history records). Here is a summary of your major rights under the FCRA. For more information, including information about additional rights, go to www.ftc.gov/credit or write to: Consumer Response Center, Room 130-A, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
- You must be told if information in your file has been used against you. Anyone who uses a credit report or another type of consumer report to deny your application for credit, insurance, or employment – or to take another adverse action against you – must tell you, and must give you the name, address, and phone number of the agency that provided the information.
- You have the right to know what is in your file. You may request and obtain all the information about you in the files of a consumer reporting agency (your "file disclosure"). You will be required to provide proper identification, which may include your Social Security number. In many cases, the disclosure will be free. You are entitled to a free file disclosure if:
- a person has taken adverse action against you because of information in your credit report;
- you are the victim of identify theft and place a fraud alert in your file;
- your file contains inaccurate information as a result of fraud;
- you are on public assistance;
- you are unemployed but expect to apply for employment within 60 days.
All consumers are entitled to one free disclosure every 12 months upon request from each nationwide credit bureau and from nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies. See www.ftc.gov/credit for additional information.
Opting out of marketing lists:
Equifax lists the following information on their site:
The Direct Marketing Association also tracks consumers who prefer not to receive mail or telephone solicitations. DMA members, including Experian, remove those consumers from their own mailing lists. The addresses are:
Mail Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
PO Box 1559
Carmel, NY 10512
Telephone Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
PO Box 1559
Carmel, NY 10512
If you write the DMA, you’ll be removed from DMA-member lists for five years. Even though your request becomes effective with Experian within five days of your notifying us, it may take several months before you see a reduction in the amount of solicitations.
Opting out will not end solicitations from all local merchants, religious and charitable associations, professional and alumni associations, politicians, and companies with which you conduct business. To eliminate mail from these groups – as well as mail addressed to “occupant” or “resident” – write directly to each source.
MSNBC has a great article on fixing errors on your credit report here.
*I haven't researched this claim, it was part of the email. Sounds like something Mr. Rooney would say, though.