We care so much about your privacy, we'll tell you about it in fine prints!

You know how it goes.

You rush home at 12:45 PM from your lunch break; not because you’re a savvy frugal person that bags their own lunch, but more so because you ate too many donuts this morning and you really have to use the restroom (for whatever reason, a tidy and clean washroom is always the last priority at your office building).

You pull into the garage, hop out of your car, unzip your pants, flung the keys onto the sofa and dash toward the downstairs restroom (because let’s face it, you won’t make it upstairs safely) — all of a sudden, a call on your home phone.

“Oh crap, is work calling?” you thought to yourself, “is lunch already over?”

A split second decision, you grab the phone and continue on towards the restroom.

“Hi, this is James from Region X Bank, Baker, Missouri Branch,” says the scripted voice, “Please don’t hang up on me as this is my—”

*click*

No time to be angry. This is going to be one of those replay finish. You kick the door down, turned around and sat right down — only to fall right into the toilet and touch the toilet water (yummy). Your insensitive significant other has forgot to put the toilet seat down.

Oh, the rage.

And who’s fault is this? Of course, the ill-timed telemarketer from Region X Bank (and maybe your upcoming ex-husband). Had they not called you, you would not have been distracted and you might have noticed that the toilet seat was left up.

So how does a savvy consumer keep what’s left of their consumer privacy? How do you reduce unsolicited telemarketing calls, junk mails, and general annoyance from people with products you just don’t care about?

Head Straight to the Offending Source

Most reputable (or nation-wide) financial institutions will have a clear privacy policy. When you apply for their service (such as a credit card or bank account), you will always receive the privacy policy set forth by the specific company. When these privacy policy have been changed or updated, by law, you will also receive an updated version of the same copy.

Most people don’t read these little privacy fold outs (as pictured above). What most people don’t realize is, many of these leaflets contain information on how to avoid direct marketing from the specific company and how the company shares your information.

You will generally have a few options:

  1. Yes/No: Sharing of your information and direct marketing within said company
  2. Yes/No: Sharing of your information and indirect marketing with other companies
  3. Remove name from telemarketing and/or mailing list.

Here are some privacy policy information from national banks, with steps you can take to choose your preferences:

Bank of America:

  • Privacy Policy Site – You can read the policy here and set your preferences online.
  • Call 1-888-341-5000 (recommend using the site instead)
  • Some marketing programs are already in progress, so even if you opt-out, it may take up to 12 weeks for the opt-out to be fully effective. When you opt-out of direct marketing programs via postal mail or telephone, your opt-out will last for five years.

Citibank:

  • Privacy Policy Site – Only option is a mail in form, available in PDF.
  • You have four choices. Limit personal information to non-affiliates. Limit personal information to affiliates. Remove name from mailing lists. Remove name from telemarketing lists.

Chase:

  • Privacy Policy Site – You can read the policy here and set your preferences online.
  • Call 1-888-868-8618, or for the hearing impaired assistance, dial 7-1-1, then 1-888-868-8618 and wait for operator assistance.
  • Old fashion snail mail: P.O. Box 260185, Baton Rouge, LA 70826-0185
  • Chase has two simple choice: Yes/No to sharing information with others; Yes/No to sharing information within family of companies.

American Express:

  • Privacy Policy Site – One of the better ones. You can also set your preferences online.
  • Call 1-800-297-8378 or mail to: P.O. Box 299836 Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33329-9836
  • Four choices, much like others. Yes/No to other companies or affiliates. Yes/No to mail offers or phone offers.

Opt-Out of Everything Because You’re Sick of It

Specific companies not spicy enough for you? Opt-out (or for the different ones, opt-in) to all credit card and insurance offers! You can visit the official consumer credit reporting industry website to either opt-in or opt-out. Your choices are fairly simple, opt-in to all the goodies (and have enough paper to shred for a lifetime), opt-out for five years, or for the more extreme — opt-out permanently! When you opt-out permanently, you’re required to print and mail an opt-out form.

Utilize Some National Resources, kthx

Visit the National Do Not Call Registry and sign up the telephone numbers to avoid telemarketers. Most telemarketers should not call the submitted number once it has been on the registry for 31 days, but you may still receive some calls — and calls from businesses where you are already a customer.

  • National Do Not Call Registry – Fear the enforcement of the FCC & FTC (heh).
  • Call 1-888-382-1222 to register via phone.
  • You can also file a complain if a telemarketer cease to make calls even after you’ve been registered for over 31 days.
  • The more concise, specific, and complete a complaint, the more chance you’ll have for it to be acted on. Avoid long, pointless story such as the introduction to this post.

California and Vermont Residents, Rejoice!

Because our state legislatures (or consumer advocacy lobby groups) actually cares about us, California and Vermont residents have more privacy protection within the state laws compare to other states (although Vermont residents have a bit more protection).

If you’re a resident at either California or Vermont, you will usually have an automatic opt-out choice to sharing of your information with non-affiliated companies (basically, other companies you might not be doing business with). For Vermont residents, you will also be automatically opt-out of the sharing of information within the specific company’s affiliates.

You should note however that both of these automatic privacy choices don’t include the choice of removal from telemarketing list or mailing list, so if you want to opt-out of those too, you should still contact the specific company and specify those choices.

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