Archive for Wednesday, July 4, 2001

Avoid junk mail by telling banks, ‘no thanks’

July 4, 2001

Joyce Woodard doesn't want you to throw out your junk mail this month.

No, she's not from a credit card company wanting to offer you a pre-approved platinum card, and she's not trying to tell you about the Hawaiian vacation you've already won.

Woodard, president of the northeast Kansas chapter of the Better Business Bureau, wants consumers to read information sent to them by their banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions because the little pamphlets contain some big information.

As of July 1, financial institutions including banks, credit card companies, investment companies any business where customers use or store money had to notify patrons about their privacy rights and give them the possibility to "opt out" of having their information shared or sold to other companies.

"Our information has been used, and this is a way to clean it up," Woodard said.

Most companies are sending out information in billing statements, she said. "I'm afraid people are going to be tossing those away not looking at them."

Customers have until Aug. 1 to decide whether they're in or out. Once customers notify their institutions, the agreement lasts as long as they are with that company.

When Kaw Valley Bank sent out notices about a month ago they informed customers that the bank opted them out automatically.

"Doing it this way, was easier for us," Ronda Shepard, assistant vice president, said.

Now, the bank will divulge only the address, phone number and credit status of customers who might need the information given out to receive a loan elsewhere, she said.

Companies wanting information to market consumer products, like credit cards, haven't approached the bank for information in the past, Shepard said.

Institutions use the information for beneficial and non-beneficial endeavors, Woodard said.

Some companies use it to market consumer products, but others may offer benefits, like insurance coverage, available only to customers.

"You need to carefully discern what you want to receive and what not," Woodard said.

She said the bureau often sees consumers tricked by corrupt telemarketers and fraudulent investment companies.

"We see a lot of that in this area," Woodard said. "I think they think we have a lot of rich Kansas farmers."

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