If you have half-decent credit, you’ve probably found preapproved offers for credit cards or insurance in your mailbox.
Perhaps you appreciate these offers. But if you consider them more like junk mail — or worry that an identity thief could pluck them from your mailbox — you can stop the offers from rolling in.
The easiest way to opt out of preapproved credit and insurance offers — also known as “prescreened” or “firm” offers — is to go through a website called OptOutPrescreen.com. Several major credit-reporting companies are behind this website: Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion.
According to OptOutPrescreen.com, opting out prevents credit-reporting companies from sharing your credit information with third parties for the purpose of preapproved offers.
The major credit-reporting companies give you two main options. You can opt out of receiving preapproved offers:
- For five years — which you can do via OptOutPrescreen.com
- Permanently — which you can do by mailing a form available on OptOutPrescreen.com
In either case, you will no longer be included in preapproved-offer lists that the credit-reporting companies behind the website provide to third parties.
If you later change your mind, you can also opt back in via the same website.
How prescreened offers come about
To understand preapproved credit or insurance offers, it helps to know how they come about — specifically, the role that credit-reporting companies play in the process.
Credit-reporting companies maintain credit files on consumers. They collect certain information about you and use it to create credit reports on you.
Under the federal law known as the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit-reporting companies can also share your information with third parties that want it for permissible purposes, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Those third parties include lenders and insurers that want to use your credit information to determine whether to send you unsolicited offers — a process known as “prescreening.” The FTC explains:
“Many companies that solicit new credit card accounts and insurance policies use prescreening to identify potential customers for the products they offer.”
How to opt out of prescreened offers
While the Fair Credit Reporting Act effectively makes prescreening permissible, the law also gives you the right to opt out of prescreening.
Whether you wish to opt out or in, the process starts by clicking on the blue button at the bottom of the OptOutPrescreen.com home page. It reads “Click Here to Opt-In or Opt-Out.”
However, before you opt out of these offers, understand that they can also benefit consumers. According to the FTC:
“Prescreened offers can help you learn about what’s available, compare costs, and find the best product for your needs. … The terms of prescreened offers also may be more favorable than those that are available to the general public. In fact, some credit card or insurance products may be available only through prescreened offers.”
Of course, if you’re actually in the market for a credit card, you’re better off using a more comprehensive resource like Money Talks News’ credit card search tool to learn what’s available.