February 6th, 2009Prescreened Offers For Credit Are Illegal – Opt Out Or File Suit
If you have a heartbeat, or a dog or cat with one, chances are you have seen dozens (or thousands) of pre-approved credit card offers in the mail. What criteria do they use to pre-approve you? Where do they get the information? And is this really legal? Can I opt out? Can I complain? Can I file a lawsuit? Read below to find out.
I’m not a lawyer, but I do read, comprehend and speak the english language. And based on the Fedeal Trade Commission’s Fair Credit Reporting Act, it is readily apparent that pre-screened credit cards are illegal. There are 11 consumer rights specifically listed in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, including:
- Access to your file is limited. A consumer reporting agency may provide information about
you only to people with a valid need — usually to consider an application with a creditor,
insurer, employer, landlord, or other business. The FCRA specifies those with a valid need for
- You may limit “prescreened” offers of credit and insurance you get based on information
in your credit report. Unsolicited “prescreened” offers for credit and insurance must include
a toll-free phone number you can call if you choose to remove your name and address from the
lists these offers are based on. You may opt-out with the nationwide credit bureaus at
- You may seek damages from violators. If a consumer reporting agency, or, in some cases, a
user of consumer reports or a furnisher of information to a consumer reporting agency violates
the FCRA, you may be able to sue in state or federal court.
According to the FTC fact page on “Prescreened Offers“,
Many companies that solicit new credit card accounts and insurance policies use prescreening to identify potential customers for the products they offer. Prescreened offers — sometimes called “preapproved” offers — are based on information in your credit report that indicates you meet criteria set by the offeror. Usually, prescreened solicitations come via mail, but you also may get them in a phone call or in an email.
Prescreening works in one of two ways:
- a creditor or insurer establishes criteria, like a minimum credit score, and asks a consumer reporting company for a list of people in the company’s database who meet the criteria; or
- a creditor or insurer provides a list of potential customers to a consumer reporting company and asks the company to identify people on the list who meet certain criteria.
Is this Legal? – NOT A CHANCE! The federal credit reporting act specifically mentions in your list of rights that ACCESS TO YOUR FILE IS LIMITED. Access should be granted ONLY for a VALID NEED – To consider an APPLICATION for credit. By definition, an UNSOLICITED pre-approved credit card offer is NOT a response to an APPLICATION. Therefore, by the consumer rights listed in the fair credit reporting act, unsolicited credit card offers are illegal. Credit reporting agencies that supply banks and other creditors with consumer lists meeting a threshold criteria are violating the fair credit reporting act.
What can I do about this? - You essentially have 2 choices:
- Follow the recommendations of the FTC and request to OPT OUT of receiving such offers. Dial 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) and tell them sto stop. This does work, and the pre-approved offers will stop.
- File a complaint with the FTC against the 3 major credit bureaus for violating the fair credit reporting act. In all likelihood, they will not respond. Like most enforcement agencies in the government (Bernie Madoff and the SEC), they are asleep at the wheel and have no intention of enforcing the very laws that they wrote. But if enough consumers complain, it will get their attention. And if you have the gumption and the financial backing to pursue it, then kick off a class action lawsuit against the 3 credit bureaus for releasing your information (ala pre-approved threshold level) to creditors without your explicit written permission.