Consumer Publications List
to Protect Your Privacy
"Why am I
getting all these telemarketing calls and direct mail offers? And how do they
know I just had a baby?"
dealership sent me a letter offering me a deal on a new car. It mentions the
exact amount I owe on my car loan. I thought that was a private matter between
me and my bank!"
using my name and Social Security number to apply for credit card accounts. Debt
collectors keep calling me about accounts that I didn't open."
becoming more concerned about their privacy. They are finding that personal
information about themselves-including their names, addresses, birthdates,
income, and purchases-is being traded and sold among many different companies
for marketing purposes. In addition, many consumers have been victimized by con
artists who stole their personal information and used it to get credit cards and
loans. "Identity theft" is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United
Here are some ways
to protect your personal information:
Limit the amount
of personal information you disclose. When filling out forms or making a
purchase, give only information that is necessary. If you don't understand why
the information is needed, ask.
Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card in your
wallet, and don't print the number on your checks. Give your number only when
absolutely necessary-ask to use other types of identification when
personal information where others can see it. At home, be cautious about
where you leave personal information such as bank statements, particularly if
you have roommates, employees in the home, or are having service work done to
personal information to strangers on the phone. Many scams involve callers
who say they represent your bank or credit card issuer and need to verify your
account information. Even "research surveys" that ask for personal information
can be a scam or merely a way to add you to a marketing list.
Be careful with
your trash and your mail. Tear up or shred items you are discarding that
contain sensitive information, such as credit card receipts, bank statements or
credit card offers. Keep an eye on your mail. Mailbox thieves can steal credit
card offers, then apply for credit in your name. They can also steal both
incoming and outgoing mail in order to find sensitive information that might be
on bill payments, for example. If mail disappears, get a locking mailbox and
take your outgoing mail to a U.S. Mailbox or the post office.
Use your right
to "opt-out." Each bank, credit card company or other financial institution
year (you can also request a copy at any time). Follow the directions to "opt
out" of having the company share your personal information with other
Remove your name
from national mailing lists. Register with the Direct Marketing
Association's Mail Preference Service. Your name will remain on this "delete
file" for five years. Send your name and address to: DMA Mail Preference
Service, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512.
Get off the
lists for receiving pre-approved offers of credit. You can tell all three
major credit reporting agencies-Equifax, Experian and Trans Union-to remove your
name from these lists by calling, toll-free, 1-888-5-OPT-OUT.
sharing with third parties.Whenever you order a magazine, buy something from
a mail order company or an online company, or donate to a charity, tell them you
don't want them to share your name and address with other businesses or
drawings and sweepstakes. The purpose of many of these contests is to
compile names and addresses for marketing purposes. Similarly, don't fill out
warranty or product registration cards. Your receipt will ensure that you are
covered by the warranty if the item is defective.
cash. If you don't want to create a database record of your purchases, pay
with cash rather than a credit card, and don't use "savings club" cards.
Give your credit
card or bank account numbers only to Web sites that offer secure, encrypted
transactions. Never give personal information-such as your Social Security
number, credit card number, or address-to unknown companies. Read the privacy
policy of Web sites you visit. Before signing up for "members only" access, or
the site may share your information with other businesses, or if there is no
collects about you shared or sold.
about revealing sensitive information online. That includes in e-mail, chat
rooms, bulletin boards or in your personal Web site.
Don't respond to
spam e-mail, even to "opt-out" of future e-mails. This may just identify you
as a "live" contact and encourage them to send you more messages.
Once a year, order a copy of your credit
report. This is a good way to check that no one is using your identity
to get credit. Maryland residents are entitled to two free copies per year from
the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax 1-800-685-1111, Experian
1-888-397-3742; and Trans Union 1-800-888-4213 (all toll-free numbers).
For more information on credit reports, go to our website at www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov//Pages/CPD/Tips-Publications/edge121.aspx.
Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection
DivisionConsumer hotline: (410) 528-8662 or 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free
200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202
410-576-6300 / En español 410-230-1712 / 1-888-743-0023 toll-free / TTY: Dial 7-1-1 or 800-735-2258