Guide to Protecting Your Privacy and Opting Out

Silent Way's Guide to Protecting Your Identity and Privacy

Every time you give out your personal info to a company, including the basic stuff (address, phone number) and the critical info (social security number, credit card numbers) ask them to keep your info off of marketing lists. Make it a habit to "opt-out" of offers from all companies you do business with. It's an easy one-time task that yields years of advertising-free joy. Also, take the following steps to protect your info preemptively:

Opt Out of Tracking Cookies

Visit this web page with each browser you use (including browsers on mobile devices), click "select all" then "submit." You might need to temporarily set your browser to accept cookies. Remember to change this setting back after opting out.

Keep your address off USPS mailing lists:

Send your name, address, and all names at your address which get junk mail, to:

MAIL PREFERENCE SERVICE

ATTN: PREFERENCE SERVICE MANAGER

DIRECT MARKETING ASSOCIATION

PO BOX 3079

GRAND CENTRAL STATION, NY 10163

They keep a list (ironically) of people who DON'T want to be put on mailing lists. If you are on this list, many junk-mailers will not put you on their mailing lists. For more info read the DMA website's postal mail list info. It's free to register by mail, or $5 to do so online.

Opt out of the ADVO/Valassis "ShopWise" and" RedPlum" useless piles of coupons. They have a massive database of almost every address in the USA and sell their list to other companies. Fill in the opt-out form on advo.com, mail it in or do it by phone (888-241-6760).

Opt out of the Valpak blue envelope of useless coupons via the Cox opt-out page.

When you move, DON'T get a permanent change of address from the US Post Office. Instead, get the TEMPORARY change of address. If you get the permanent change, they instantly sell your address to over 500 companies, and you can't stop it (I tried in 2014).

CatalogChoice.org is a great new service that helps you opt out of particular catalog mailings. They handle the legwork for you, and they shame the companies that don't cooperate.

LexisNexis, another big database company, honors opt-out requests made through the DMA, or you can manually opt out of the LexisNexis database.

In San Francisco, opt out of the weekly SF Chronicle "special offers" ad mail bundle by calling (415) 777-7979.

See this video and article about data brokers and how to opt out.

Check out this article to learn more about opting out from various marketing clearinghouse lists.

Check out this article to learn about the "Shine A Light" law in California, and similar laws elsewhere. You have the right to know who sold your info, and can sue for damages if they fail to provide that info to you.

For every magazine that you subscribe to (paid or free), opt out of their list when you get the first issue. Most magazines sell off their subscriber lists unless you opt out. Look at the bottom of the masthead page under their contact info. It's usually in tiny print in the last few paragraphs about subscriber address changes.

Check out The Silent Way Directory- Privacy section for more consumer privacy protection links.



Keep your phone number off solicitation lists:

#1: The Federal Trade Commission's Do-Not-Call List,

Register here or call 888-382-1222.



#2: Opt out via the DMA Phone Preference Service online, or mail your name and phone number to:

DMA Phone Preference Service

PO Box 9008

Farmingdale NY 11735-9014

They keep a list of people who don't want to be cold-called. But companies who just call every number combination at random will probably still call you. It's free to register by mail, or $5 to do so online. For more info read the DMA website's phone list info.



The DMA has an email opt-out list too. Read about it here.

There are also a bunch of good privacy tips for your phone and safe websurfing in this MacWorld article.

To keep your info away from credit card offers, etc.:

Your credit history is available to credit card companies for marketing offers. To reduce junkmail credit-related offers such as "bait-and-switch" low percentage credit cards that switch to a higher rate after a few months, call the federal Credit Reporting Agency (CRA) opt-out request line. They will opt you out with the four major credit reporting companies permanently, or you can request it for just two years. It's real, read about it at the FTC website.

Call 888-567-8688, aka 1-888-5-OPT-OUT. (or try 800-353-0809)

You can choose either 2-years or permanent.

This call will remove you from the following companies' lists: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis. It will take your pertinent info and then remove you from the sales pitches list. You'll need any addresses you've had over the past two years, your SS#, etc. Your credit info will still be available to someone who you authorize (such as a prospective landlord). (This might only apply in CA, MA, and NH. Ask to be sure you're covered.)

For the full scoop on getting a copy of your credit report, see Silent Way's Guide To Rental Housing in Tight Markets And Your Credit Report.

Get a copy of your Social Security report:

Call Social Security at (800) 772-1213, to ask for your free Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement (actually, you'll request a form which in turn requests the report, via an automated voice-mail system). This will show you how much you've put into your account so far, and estimates of Social Security benefits, disability benefits, death benefits etc. It will also indicate any unauthorized use of your social security number if it doesn't match your real earnings. Read more at ssa.gov.

Check to see if your medical history info is in this insurance industry database:

Get a copy of your MIB file here.

Medical Information Bureau (MIB)

PO Box 105

Essex Station, MA 02112

617-426-3660



Check to see if your driver's license and other info is in the LexisNexis/Choicepoint database:

(Choicepoint was acquired by LexisNexis, so the following might change.) ChoicePoint's website states that "ChoicePoint has grown from the nation's premier source of data to the insurance industry into the premier provider of decision-making intelligence to businesses and government." Their privacy website says that they honor opt-out requests made through the DMA, but to be sure you can manually opt out of the database here and here.

For a spooky ride, check out this section of their site listing all the ways they sell marketing data to other companies. An example of one of their 100+ services: "Accurint® provides you with a direct online connection to over 4 billion current public records..." Or, how about this Skynet product: Contact And Locate, which offers "...comprehensive, independent data sources—comprised of more than four billion credible name, address and phone number records, including relatives and neighbors..."



There are more privacy links here:

The Silent Way Directory- Privacy section

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