We all get tons of it, and we might just glance at it before tossing it in the trash. It’s junk mail, and it comes in all forms: catalogs, postcards, and envelopes coming from businesses we may have never heard of.
While most junk mail is harmless, one type could pose a threat to your credit: prescreened credit card offers.
The good news is you can reduce or stop credit card offers with a few simple steps.
Here’s more about prescreened credit card offers and why you should consider opting out to prevent identity theft.
Where do prescreened offers come from?
Prescreened or preapproved credit card offers are sent by credit card issuers to get your business and convince you to open a credit account.
They’re considered “prescreened” because they target consumers that meet certain criteria. By the time you get these offers, these companies have already used information in your credit report to qualify you for that particular offer. They’re able to do this by working with consumer reporting companies to get access to your credit information.
Many times the criteria is as simple as a minimum credit score.
Do these offers affect your credit?
Contrary to what some believe, receiving these prescreened offers has no effect on your credit history or credit score. These are “soft” inquiries, meaning they show up on your credit report but don’t have any impact on your credit.
Choosing to opt-out or not on prescreened credit card offers will make no difference on your credit score.
Of course, if you do choose to open a credit card account from a prescreened offer, the impact on your credit is no different than if you opened a credit card normally.
Identity theft risk
Receiving these offers by mail can increase the chance that thieves will get their hands on your sensitive information and use it to open accounts in your name. There are two primary ways that identify theft can occur with these offers:
- Dumpster diving. Thieves will dig through trash just to look for sensitive information. According to one survey, 88% of the information used by thieves to steal identities was harvested through Dumpster diving.
- Mail theft. This is when mail is taken without permission from a mailbox, mail truck, or through any other means.
Prescreened credit card offers open the door for thieves to open accounts under your name simply by changing the address on the card.
These threats can be reduced by protecting your mail and by shredding sensitive documents before discarding them. But taking the step to reduce the number of offers you may receive might be the safest option.
How to reduce or stop credit card offers from coming
Whether you’re looking to reduce identity theft risk or just want get rid of junk mail that you’re sick of sorting, opting out of credit card offers is easy.
If you’ve heard of the “Do Not Call” list, the process and result for opting out of credit card offers is similar.
You have the option to opt-out of credit card offers for five years or permanently. In either case, you simply need to provide basic contact information like your name and telephone number as well as sensitive info like your date of birth and Social Security number.
Visit OptOutPrescreen.com or call toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT. Follow the steps, receive confirmation, and you’re set.
Begin the process online at OptOutPrescreen.com. You’ll then receive a “Permanent Opt-Out Election” form in the mail, which you must sign and return to complete the request.
You can also send a written request to each reporting agency individually if you can’t or prefer not to submit your request by web or phone. Mail your request with your name, telephone number, Social Security number, and date of birth to:
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123
P.O. Box 919
Allen, TX 75013
Name Removal Option
P.O. Box 505
Woodlyn, PA 19094
Innovis Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 495
Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0495
One important thing to remember: You can’t stop credit card offers entirely if you have existing relationships with credit card issuers. Companies that you currently and continue to do business with will still be able to send you offers. You may contact companies individually and request that you be removed from mailing lists, but there’s no way to automatically opt-out from these offers.
One downside of opting out: you may be missing out on credit card offers that you may be interested in. While prescreened offers stop short of guaranteeing eligibility for the offer, there’s a very good chance you will qualify if you’re in the market for a new credit card.