Opting out


No. No. No!

My mailbox runneth over with credit card offers: "You have been preapproved!" Just return the enclosed application and we will give you a gazillion dollar credit limit with 0% introductory rate! The fine print, of course, indicates that after the introductory period the rate will rise by a modest, oh, say, 20%—

The few (5) credit cards I currently have — and according to the statistics, I have far fewer cards than most, having closed most of my accounts (but that's another tale!) — have a combined credit limit of almost $58,000. And almost every month one of them cheerfully announces a whopping increase in my limit. The fact that I am no longer working and earning a regular income is apparently of no consequence!

Recently I began to notice on many of these offers, again in fine print, a statement to the effect that if I didn't want to get the offers I could stop them by calling Equifax, the credit reporting company. I would dutifully put the number on my to-do list, but never quite got around to it. The anticipated hassle of dealing with a large bureaucratic business through the inevitable automated telephone system may have had something to do with my reluctance.

Yesterday I happened across a tidbit in the Washington Post's consumer advice column that mentioned you can do the opting-out online. Yeah!


I went to OptOutPrescreen.com and there was, sure enough, an online form that would allow me to opt out of prescreened offers for 5 years or permanently.

optout requests

The catch was, and there's always a catch, that in order to opt out permanently you had to print off the form, sign it, and send it in. OK, 39¢ is a small price to pay for being permanently left alone.

On a related page I saw a link to a Direct Marketing Association page that would allow me to opt out of direct mail advertising online. Oh, boy!

DMA submit buttons

The scumbags! If you want to use the online form, you have to pay $5! Think about it: Of the two methods, online and snail-mail, which is more labor-intensive, time-consuming, and costly? Even at the sweatshop wages the DMA undoubtedly pays desperate people to sit there opening envelopes and keying the information into a computer system, the manual method certainly costs more than the processing of an electronic form by computer. So why charge $5 for doing it online? I can think of two easy answers: First, DMA just wants to make money off people's desire to be left alone. Second, DMA wants to discourage people from submitting their request.

Unlike telemarketing, which is intrusive and disruptive, I really don't mind direct mail advertising all that much. I can go to the mailbox whenever I choose, and I can choose whether to look at it or not. Most of it goes into the paper recycling bin unopened and unread anyway. (Not to mention that some of it is quite amusing and occasionally salacious.) But I'd rather not have it cluttering up my mailbox, and the credit card offers are an open invitation to fraud and identity theft.

Stay tuned. We'll see how this works.