7 On Your Side: Opt Out Options

Paula Slotkin was sick of annoying telemarketing phone calls.  So a while back, she took action and saw a huge drop in calls.

"I dialed the number and got on the do not call list.  It was great," says Paula.

But Paula never knew - until now - about all the other available opt outs.  Lists you can join to protect your privacy and stop unwanted offers.

Just as we discovered with East Texas shoppers didn't know about these options either.

"I've never heard of that," says shopper Kristina Noland.

Pam Dixon with the World Privacy Forum says there are several programs everyone should know about including opt outs that prevent your bank, mortgage lender, credit card company and some other financial institutions from sharing certain personal information with non-affiliated companies.

"I don't think any of us want our bank account balance shared with marketers and I just don't know that people know that that's happening," says Dixon.

Consumer advocates say it's not simple because each financial institution has a different policy. If you want to opt out but didn't keep the information you received in the mail Dixon has this advice,"You really need to go to your financial institution and find out what their policy is. You read it and you follow their directions for how to opt out."

And in this day of identity theft advocates say more and more people want to stop credit card and insurance offers from clogging their mailboxes.

"I just throw them away normally," says Kristina.

Shopper Maria DeLaCruz adds, "I'm scared to throw them in the trash and then people put them together and everything."

There's a toll-free number run by the credit bureaus that allows you to stop prescreened offers. It's 1-888-5-OPT-OUT or online at www.optoutprescreen.com.

Another opt-out now available nationwide: a credit freeze.

It authorizes the bureaus to freeze your reports so no one can get credit in your name.

You should know a freeze means you can't apply for new credit either unless you order a thaw, which can take a few days.

Important to know before you apply for a car loan or mortgage!

"You may not want to freeze your credit when you're considering a purchase," says Sally Greenberg with the National Consumers League.

If catalogues make you crazy, email the direct marketing association asking that member companies take your name of their list.

Of course, you may love the latest catalogues so decide whether you want to stop them.

"You really need to weigh the benefits. What's the annoyance to benefit factor?," says Dixon.

Paula says she'll weigh the pros and cons of all the opt outs.  But since she was a victim of identity theft herself, privacy is the first priority.

So for now, she's going to start with the credit freeze.

"I think it's definitely worth the average person's time to make sure that your personal information is secure," says Paula.

Another opt-out, known as "can spam," lets you ask commercial e-mailers to stop clogging your inbox.

For more information on the top ten opt out list go to www.worldprivacyforum.org. You'll see a link titled "Top Ten Opt Out List" on the right side of the homepage.

Christine Nelson, Reporting cnelson@kltv.com