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Reduce Unsolicited US Mail & Phone Calls

Common Advice on ID Theft

Military Recruiters

People Find Where You Live, from Your Phone Number

Privacy on Yahoo

Privacy on Search Engines


Reduce Unsolicited US Mail & Phone Calls

Most steps are free.

1. Tell major tele-marketers not to call you : enter as many phone numbers as you have at donotcall.gov or www.ftc.gov/donotcall
Or call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY 1-866-290-4236), from each number you want to register.

Registration is free & lasts until number is disconnected or 5 years, whichever comes sooner. Re-register if your phone service is disconnected for any reason. Include your cell number, which telemarketers can otherwise call in some situations. File complaints at same website.

2. Tell all credit bureaus not to release your record for unsolicited credit card offers (pre-screened mailing lists). 888-567-8688 (888-5OPTOUT) or www.optoutprescreen.com. They will ask for your phone number, name, and social security number. You can do this for 5 years or permanently. You can also get a free copy of your credit report annualcreditreport.com and of CoreLogic's records of property ownership and mortgages. Besides opting out, see below for establishing a "fraud alert" (free) or "freezing" your credit reports (costs money).

3. Tell major direct-mailers not to send mail. http://dmachoice.org  Registration lasts 5 years.

The above first three steps are the most important. The steps below are effective within their own specific scope.

* Tell each unsolicited caller to remove you from their list.

* Tell each repeat mailer (like catalogs) to remove you from their list.

* Tell each company that sends you a privacy statement that you want to opt out of information sharing.

* Tell debt collectors not to contact you (FTC complaints & procedures, private advice)

*When you move, give the Postal Service a "Temporary change of address" form for 11½ months, instead of a permanent change, if you want to keep USPS from giving your new address to mailers who pay for it. "Address corrections and notices are not provided for customers who file a temporary change of address or for individuals at a business address." according to the USPS Domestic Mail Manual, section 507, "Mailer Services" subsection 3.1.2 http://pe.usps.gov/archive/html/dmmarchive0106/507.htm#wp1113100 Further discussion at ecofuture.org/jm/usps_coa.html and knowmore.org/wiki/index.php?title=Junk_Mail:_Unsolicited_Advertising_that_Pollutes_Our_Planet_and_Invades_Our_Privacy

* The U. S. Postal Service maintains a list of people who do not want sexually oriented advertising coming to their home, and provides the list to companies which mail such promotions. Take Form 1500 to your local Post Office to stop all sexually oriented mail, or mail from a particular company.

* Report harassing callers to 911 and the phone company.

* "Political Do Not Contact Registry" has advice on minimizing politicians' calls http://www.stoppoliticalcalls.org

* Tell Frontier phone company (800-921-8101) to exclude your number when they sell computer lists of numbers. This is free, while taking your number out of the printed phone book costs money. You can also ask the phone company to put a "PIC Freeze" and "Equal Access Carrier Block" on your account. The "Freeze" stops companies switching your long distance carrier for you. The "Block" stops other phone companies and internet service providers from putting charges on your phone bill (e.g. for search services or shortcut long distance services) You can still choose other long distance companies by calling the phone company yourself.

Common Advice on ID Theft

Most common types of ID theft in your zip code

Annual Free Credit Report: You can get a free copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com online instantly or mailed to your home address or PO Box, and of CoreLogic's records of property ownership and mortgages.

If they refuse an online copy (because their erroneous records fail to match the information you enter), you probably need an instant copy to check what's wrong, and you may be able to buy one by subscribing at a low teaser rate from TransUnion, Equifax or Experian directly, and then cancel the higher-priced renewal. Using your credit card to pay the teaser rate identifies you pretty well, so you can see the report even if not all information matches. Often these teaser rates are built on selling you your credit score and/or credit monitoring. The credit score is not the same as a bank or insurance company uses to rate you, so is only mildly helpful. Their analysis of how to improve your score varies dramatically across sites, even on the same day, so may also be unhelpful.

Credit Freeze

If you lose your wallet or someone gets your financial information, put a freeze on your credit reports, so no one (except existing creditors, governments, and credit monitoring companies) can see the reports until you lift the freeze. Therefore no one (including you) can get a new loan based on your credit. It generally costs $5-10 per credit bureau to start & stop. Price depends on your state law, and is given in the following article:







If you lose a credit, debit, or ATM card, call the card company. They will freeze the card and give you a new number, or just freeze it for a few days if you think you may find the card.

A debit card does not have the same legal protections as a credit card, so use a credit card on the internet (and check internet sellers with the Better Business Bureau). Also use a credit card where it has insurance benefits (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damage_waiver ). However credit cards report the monthly amount of your spending to the credit bureaus each month, while a debit card keeps that private, so if you want your spending levels to be private, use a debit card with businesses you know.

Fraud Alert

Different from a freeze is a fraud alert, which tells lenders to take extra steps to verify an applicant's identity. That may not work as well as a freeze (see the links above), but a fraud alert is free.


Asking one credit bureau for a fraud alert is supposed to be enough. They will tell the other two, who will send you confirmation letters:

1.) Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

2.) Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742

3.) Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289

4.) Federal Trade Commission: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/

There are two types of fraud alerts: an initial alert, and an extended alert.

  • An initial fraud alert stays on your credit report for at least 90 days. You may ask that an initial fraud alert be placed on your credit report if you suspect you have been, or are about to be, a victim of identity theft. An initial alert is appropriate if your wallet has been stolen or if you've been taken in by a "phishing" scam. With an initial fraud alert, potential creditors must use what the law refers to as “reasonable policies and procedures” to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.


  • An extended fraud alert stays on your credit report for seven years. You can have an extended alert placed on your credit report if you've been a victim of identity theft and you provide the consumer reporting company with an Identity Theft Report.

If you have been a victim of identity theft, you can also get a free Credit Freeze, see above. Good advice is all over the web, if you search for "Anonymous Attorney's Advice" Check a review of the advice at http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/scams/credit.htm More thorough advice is at http://www.pirg.org/consumer/credit/theft.htm


Free credit monitoring (ad-supported Karma, Sesame)


Military Recruiters

* You can tell school administrators every August or September not to give your middle & high school children's names, addresses & phones to military recruiters, who are very persistent callers. You can just send a note to the principal, or use the "Privacy Act" form in the Student/Parent Handbook (beginning-of-year forms) at http://boe.jeff.k12.wv.us  More information is at http://www.leavemychildalone.org Students 18 or older can do this themselves. The latter site also tells you how to opt out of another recruiters' database collected from other sources than schools. (Of course your children can still contact any recruiter; this just stops recruiters from calling first.) Public & private schools must give your children's contact info to recruiters unless you say no (rules are at NCLB 9528 definitions are at NCLB9101(26) ). Do this when children are young; if recruiters get info even once, they can save it until the children are old enough to enlist. Page 2 of the Parent/Student handbook of Jefferson County Schools has similar information on opting out, and they say to do this within 10 days. You can actually opt out any time, and no more info will be given to recruiters for the rest of that school year, though you'll need to renew each school year. They first give the file to recruiters around the end of October. If you want to avoid recruiters' calls, send a note or the form to the principal now. Also use http://www.leavemychildalone.org to get your information out of other defense department files.

People Find Where You Live, from Your Phone Number

Google and other websites give out your address to anyone who has your phone number. They will stop if you ask them, at: http://www.google.com/help/pbremoval.html

Privacy on Yahoo

A good explanation is at http://jondreyer.org/yahoospam.html

There are at least two privacy issues on Yahoo:

 - Mail preferences under http://subscribe.yahoo.com/showaccount and

 - Web beacons under http://privacy.yahoo.com/privacy/us/beacons/details.html If you opt out of web beacons, they will not send info about you to other websites, but those other websites will still tell Yahoo that you visited them.

Privacy on Search Engines

Quotes from "Google Records Subpoena Raises Privacy Fears," by Maria Godoy, 1/20/06


...Below are excerpts from search engine's privacy policies regarding the disclosure of information for legal purposes:

Google: "Google does comply with valid legal process, such as search warrants, court orders, or subpoenas seeking personal information. These same processes apply to all law-abiding companies. As has always been the case, the primary protections you have against intrusions by the government are the laws that apply to where you live."

Yahoo: "We respond to subpoenas, court orders, or legal process, or to establish or exercise our legal rights or defend against legal claims; We believe it is necessary to share information in order to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud, situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person, violations of Yahoo!'s terms of use, or as otherwise required by law."

MSN: "We may access and/or disclose your personal information if we believe such action is necessary to: (a) comply with the law or legal process served on Microsoft; (b) protect and defend the rights or property of Microsoft (including the enforcement of our agreements); or (c) act in urgent circumstances to protect the personal safety of users of Microsoft services or members of the public."

AOL: "The contents of your online communications, as well as other information about you as an AOL Network user, may be accessed and disclosed in response to legal process (for example, a court order, search warrant or subpoena); in other circumstances in which AOL believes the AOL Network is being used in the commission of a crime; when we have a good faith belief that there is an emergency that poses a threat to the safety of you or another person; or when necessary either to protect the rights or property of AOL, the AOL Network or its affiliated providers, or for us to render the service you have requested."

...Google, Microsoft's MSN, Yahoo and AOL received subpoenas for a random sampling of millions of Internet addresses cataloged in their databases, as well as for records for potentially billions of searches made over a one-week period. Only Google refused to comply. The Justice Department wants to use the data to support its argument that Web-filtering software doesn't work.

"All the search engines have created a honey pot of information about people and what they search for," says Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney for the group. "It's a window into their personalities -- what they want, what they dream about. This information gets stored, and that becomes very tempting."

...At a basic level, search engines retain a record of the Web sites users visit and the search terms they use. "Cookies" -- text files that are embedded in a user's hard drive by a Web page server -- help search engines keep a record of their customers' Web habits to personalize their searches and to deliver targeted advertising. Yahoo's cookie expires in June 2006. The cookie used by Google lasts until 2036.

Search engines that offer e-mail services -- such as Yahoo Mail or Google's Gmail -- retain whatever personal information users are required to enter when opening an e-mail account, Sullivan notes. The same holds true for anyone who signs in when using a personalized homepage from Google or Yahoo. Whatever information you provide when signing in could be linked to your search history.

And customers who buy services from a search engine might also be leaving their credit card information behind. "Technically, they can use that to find out who you are," Sullivan says.

Technology to help Web users protect their privacy is available. Software such as Tor and Anonymizer hides a user's IP address (the string of numbers that identifies a user's computer) from search engines by routing search requests through a maze of servers.