We all react differently to marketing approaches, especially those that are delivered right to our homes. What some may consider convenient others may view as invasions of privacy. For instance, the ads we see online are often based on our internet browsing activity or purchase history. While some people enjoy receiving catalogs and pre-approved credit card offers others consider these offers a nuisance. Most people are annoyed by overly persistent telemarketers. Many of these unsolicited offers can be avoided. The BBB, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other agencies offer seven simple ways to help you protect your privacy both online and off, avoid unwanted calls and secure your identity.
Get Off Mailing Lists - The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) allows you to remove your address from mailing lists which send marketing materials based on your past purchases and interests (e.g. magazine offers). Keep the mail you want, block materials you’re not interested in. www.dmachoice.org
Opt-out of Online Behavioral Advertising - Some online ads are customized as you browse the Web, based on your interests. The Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) consumer choice page allows you to opt-out of receiving ads from participating ad networks. http://www.aboutads.info/choices/
Stop Preapproved Credit Card Offers - You have the right to opt-out of being included on lists companies use to mail you credit card and insurance offers. The BBB is aware that you will be asked for your SSN. This is a secure site which BBB employees themselves have used. www.optoutprescreen.com
Block Telemarketing Calls - The National Do Not Call Registry helps you to limit the telemarketing calls you receive. Exceptions include polling, surveys and fundraisers from political parties and non-profit organizations. Once you register your phone number, covered telemarketers have up to 31 days to stop calling you. www.donotcall.gov
Add a Security Freeze - A security freeze locks down your credit reports so criminals can’t access your credit to open unauthorized accounts (existing credit accounts are not impacted). In Georgia there is no fee for senior citizens 65 and older and identity theft victims. All others pay $3 for each credit reporting agency for a total of $9 to place, temporarily lift or remove the freeze. South Carolina law prevents residents from being charged any fees to place, temporarily lift or remove the freeze. To be effective, a freeze must be implemented with all three credit reporting agencies.
Place a Fraud Alert - A fraud alert is a less drastic measure than a security freeze. An alert flags your credit reports, alerting lenders to verify the identity of anyone attempting to open an account in your name. Fraud alerts are free, but rely on the diligence of the person performing the credit check. Fraud alerts must be reinstated every 90 days in most cases. You only need to contact one credit reporting agency to place an alert—it must notify the others.
Check your Credit Reports - Monitoring your credit reports is key to catching identity theft early. Anyone can request a free copy of your report every 12 months from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Georgia residents get two free copies. Spacing these checks out allows you to monitor your credit throughout the year. www.annualcreditreport.com.
Protecting your identity and privacy can be achieved by arming yourself with the information and resources that are available to us as consumers. For more tips on protecting yourself, visit BBB.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA, Inc. serving 41 counties in Central Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: 1-800-763-4222, Web site: www.bbb.org or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com