The Consumer Information Highway
Have you ever wondered how companies, organizations, or even retailers have obtained your personal contact information or even asked yourself where all those endless mailers on promotions, events or subscription offers have come from? Now, ask yourself, do you want it to stop?
Although it may be helpful for consumers to be well informed of promotions or happenings, it also raises the question of privacy and control of using consumer’s personal information. To help you take that step ahead and sit in the driver’s seat, here are some ways to assist you.
Make Your Preferences Known
As a consumer, you can first start asserting your rights, by :
- Spending some time to think about offers you have received over the past year.
- Then see if you can identify the sources, whether offline or online, which have been linked to your name.
- Identify which offers you would like to no longer receive further information from.
- Thereafter contact these organizations you joined, magazines you subscribed to, charities you have supported, and your credit card issuer to ask them to delete your name from lists they rent to other organizations and merchants.
On the other hand, you should also follow through with your credit report, which is a good source of financial information. A credit bureau can examine the status of your credit report:
- Call the credit bureau once a year for a copy of your credit report.
- Check your report before applying for a job that requires a security clearance or background check.
- If there is something wrong with the report, inform the credit bureau immediately. Correcting errors quickly will help prevent inaccurate information from being circulated.
Protect Your Information
Here are ways to safeguard your information from fraudulent use.
Credit Card and Bank Account Numbers
- Do not give your credit card or bank account number to any unsolicited caller who is unknown to you and seeks to sell you something or offers you a prize.
- Be cautious about doing business on the spot with someone who calls you without a reference.
- Check out unfamiliar companies by calling your local consumer protection office.
- Memorize your personal identification number (PIN) for ATM transactions. Keep it in a separate place from your card, and never use your identity card number or PIN number as a password.
- Keep your credit card account numbers in a confidential place. Sign new cards as soon as you receive them.
- Destroy and discard carbon copies of receipts, copies of airline tickets, or anything else that displays your card number.
- Do not allow a merchant to record your credit card number on a cheque, receipt, or other document.
- Do not put your address, telephone number, or other personal information that does not appear on the front of your credit card on a credit card receipt.
Now That You’re in the Driver’s Seat
Always feel free to inform and express appreciation to your bank, credit card issuer, or merchant for providing an opt-out and making it work. You can also tell pollsters, the media and others that you patronize companies that follow good privacy policies with respect to consumer information. As you learn more about how businesses use financial and consumer information, you can gain more control over it and reap personal benefits.