Take action by July 1 to prevent your personal information from being sold by financial institutions-Truth! & Fiction!

Take Action by July 1 to Prevent Your Personal Information from Being Sold by Financial Institutions-Truth! & Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:
An email warning says you need to take personal action by July 1 to keep your name from being sold to mailing lists by some of the companies you do business with.  Some versions say that otherwise, the companies can “give the information to anyone who asks.”   They also list telephone numbers you can call to accomplish the same thing with credit bureaus.

The Truth:
Go get a cup of coffee to drink while reading this, because this one is confusing.
First, don’t worry about the July 1 deadline.  It actually referred to July 1, 2001, and it wasn’t a deadline for you.  It was a deadline for certain financial institutions to notify you of “opt-out” policies (explained below).  You haven’t missed out on anything.
Second, most version of this eRumor say that if you don’t respond, anybody who asks will be given your personal information including your Social Security number.  That is not true.
Here are the details.
As you have discovered, it is common for people with whom you have done business to put you on their mailing lists and for them to send you information from time to time about themselves.  They’re looking for additional business from you.
It is also true that many of those companies will make your name, address, and other information about you available to other companies so those companies can send you information about themselves, their products, and their services.  Sometimes that information is sold to other companies.  Sometimes it is shared among companies that have the same ownership or other alliances.
A lot of people objected to this company-to-company sharing of personal  information so in response, Congress passed The Financial Services Modernization Act, also known as Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB).  It required financial institutions such as banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, or brokerage firms to notify their customers by July 1, 2001 of their policies regarding what is done with information about them…and to give the chance to “opt out” of the process.  In other words, to to give you the chance to tell those institutions that you do not want your information shared or sold to anyone else.  It did not mean that if you failed to respond by July 1 you were out of luck.  You can request privacy information at any time from any company and ask about whether you can opt-out and, if so, how.
In a completely separate and previous action in 1996, Congress also passed an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  This one applied to credit bureaus, those companies that keep track of your credit information.  The amendment required them to give customers an opportunity to “opt-out” if they didn’t want their information shared with other companies who may want to solicit them for business.  That’s where the telephone number came from and it is authentic.  If you dial (888) 567-8688, that will accomplish your opt-out request with the top four major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, Trans-union, and Innovis.
To make things more confusing, if you call the number, there is a recording that explains that some of the information in the eRumors is incorrect and some people have thought that means the number is bogus.
We do urge caution.  Before you call any of the telephone numbers in an email, make sure they are correct. (See the links below).  You will be asked to share personal information such as your Social Security number and you don’t want to give it to anyone who many have inserted a bogus phone number into the email.
For more information:
Experian (Formerly TRW)

Trans Union

An informative help page from the Center for Democracy and Technology