By Donna Ryun
OOIDA communications manager
It’s a small world, isn’t it? Surely it must be when you’re getting cards, letters, e-mails, and phone calls from strangers who know your shopping preferences and whether you pay your bills on time.
Frankly, I don’t like it when folks I’ve never heard of seem to know more about me than I know about myself. How do they get my private information, and more importantly, how can I put a stop to it?
A little research on the subject tells me that there are many ways that these places get personal info, and sometimes we can point a finger at ourselves for giving it away. While we may not be able to prevent doing this in every instance, there are steps we can take to slow it down and often stop it altogether. In any case, we should all be more aware.
Recently on the OOIDA members-only message board, there was discussion involving a member who had applied for his own authority. His MC number had just been posted to the FMCSA Register when he received a phone call from a company identifying itself as simply, “Permits.” Thinking that the caller was an OOIDA Business Services representative who had assisted him with obtaining his authority, he fell into their trap.
It’s a good thing that OOIDA authority agent Doreen Weakley was aware of these tactics and stepped in to protect our member. She says this is something her department comes across every day.
According to Doreen, many companies scan the FMCSA Register and wait for the MC number to post, and then the solicitation will begin. Her advice is to never give your credit card information out unless you are certain that you are dealing with someone you know. If in doubt, always call the company you are working with before you commit to anything. “Solicitors are very aggressive and will try to sell you drug consortium information, permits, BOC3, compliance packages,” Doreen cautioned.
The following are some tips to help you take more control over how your personal information will be used:
To keep telemarketers from calling, make sure to sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry. You can register at donotcall.gov or call toll free at 1-888-382-1222. Report those companies that violate your do-not-call rights.
What with the crime of identity theft being in the news so much these days, I doubt I need to remind you to order your credit report at least once a year to check for accuracy and/or suspicious activity. Just in case you aren’t aware, you can get one free copy a year by visiting annualcreditreport.com. If you don’t have computer access, call 1-877-322-8228 to make your request.
If you receive a lot of mail containing pre-approved credit card offers, make sure you shred them before discarding to protect against thieves using them to open an account in your name. To opt out of these offers, call 1-888-567-8688 or visit optoutprescreen.com.
You can minimize your junk mail and save a few trees by opting out of the mailing lists of many marketing firms. There’s no charge to do this if you send your request by mail to: Mail Preference Service, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY, 10512. Just include your name, address and signature. You can also go online to opt out by visiting http://dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist; however, there is a small fee when you use this method.
Something you may not know is that you can get your insurance claims history as well as your bank account history. This might come in handy if your insurance company uses this information for rating purposes or if you’ve noticed something fishy on your bank statements.
To order your insurance claims history, contact ChoicePoint by calling 1-866-312-8076 to ask for a free copy of your CLUE Report, or visit choicetrust.com and click on CLUE Reports. To request your bank account history, call ChexSystems at 1-800-428-9623 or visit consumerdebit.com.
The Medical Information Bureau collects and shares information with insurance companies, so you should check your file to make sure that it is accurate. Request a copy of your medical information file by contacting the Medical Information Bureau at 1-866-692-6901. Computer users can visit mib.com/html/request_your_record.html.
Do you have one of those cards that your grocery store scans at the checkout stand so you get a discount on your groceries? In exchange for this, they link your name and address to your purchases and build a profile of your shopping habits.
This information is valuable to companies that want to find a match for the products they are selling, and you may find yourself on yet another mailing or telemarketing list. Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if I used “Average Shopper” as my name and “General Delivery” for my address. Maybe I’ll try that sometime – or maybe I’ll just shop someplace else.
If you’re feeling lucky and enter a sweepstakes drawing, you’ve just opened yourself up to marketers who will gladly bombard you with solicitations and even scams in some cases. Same thing goes when you sign up for those drawings at various trade shows and fairs, so be aware that your information could be shared and used for marketing purposes.
Internet users should avoid putting any personal information online unless it is a secure site. Did you know that you can opt out of sharing online cookie data that advertisers gobble up (pun intended)? Just visit the Network Advertising Initiative at networkadvertising.org.
Always take great care to protect your Social Security number. Truckers frequently ask me if they have to provide their SSN at the guard shack or if it is illegal for a company to request their number.
The answer is no to both questions. It’s not illegal for them to request the number, but you can refuse. Just remember that they can also refuse to allow you access without it. That doesn’t mean you have to make it easy for them. Always ask if you can use another form of identification and take it all the way to the manager if they refuse. Ultimately, you’ll need to decide whether to risk providing the information or taking your business elsewhere.
If you’re like me and want to take back control over the use of your personal information, think twice before giving it away and be wary of prying eyes and ears. Guard your privacy by opting out of these lists whenever you can – and it wouldn’t hurt to let your lawmakers know how you feel about this important issue.
Keep these numbers
National Do Not Call Registry
Free credit report
Stop credit card offers by mail
or visit http://dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist
Medical Information Bureau