Less Junk Mail – Now With Less Privacy

I was going through a backlog of feeds today and noticed a number that I could call that would allow me to opt-out of getting credit card junk mail from the big credit bureaus. I thought to myself, “Great, I really hate those things and they go directly to the trash. Let’s see if I can stop it for a while.”

For those outside the US that don’t know, we Americans get a ton of junk mail from a bunch of credit card companies and other companies we could care less about because these credit bureaus keep a mailing list with our names on them and then they sell the list to direct marketers. It’s a great business for them and they can even qualify you as a good lead because they know your credit score. What turns out to be good business for them is really annoying to those of us who have to receive this mail.

So, I call the number and I get a computerized greeting. The nice computerized voice tells me that there are no operators to take my call, but that I can still opt-out. She asks me if my phone number is the one that I’m calling from (I’m assuming they have caller ID, but that can be blocked or I could call from a pay-phone) and I say no. The computer then asks me to say the phone number for the residence I want to opt-out for. I give them the number to my house and the computer starts reading back my home address to ask me if it is correct. _Wait, what?_ A little concerned, I say yes because it was my address. It then proceeds to say my full name and asks me to confirm. I say yes because that’s correct too.

Thankfully, that’s all the information that it decided to give to me without asking for any sort of verification, only a phone number which I could have picked out randomly, or worse yet, given to someone who now wants to find out where I live.

The rest of the call asked me to enter in my social security number and date of birth to confirm that I was who I said I was.

This seems backwards to me. Shouldn’t I have to tell you who I am with some information that I don’t just readily give away? I don’t go around printing my social security number on business cards, but I do print my phone number on business cards. My information is in their systems if they are using what I enter to verify the transaction. Ask me this information first before you disclose my name and home address to anyone I’ve given my phone number to.

Here’s the number for those interested: 1-888-5-OPTOUT

For those who are going to say that this number was fake and that I just got my identity stolen, I used the web browser on my phone and checked this number out before I called. That is also where my feed reader is. The number is listed on the Federal Trade Commission’s website along with a link to a free website where you can enter in your information to opt out. I was going to use the form, but typing in a whole bunch of data using your phone is not ideal with a simple 12 button keypad, so I decided to use the number. The website gets things right. I have to enter in tons of information about myself including my address. The phone number just gives it up willingly.

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