Did you know that banks can sell your private information for profit?
Have you been flooded with privacy notices, credit card applications, offers and numerous advertisements and other "junk mail"? This happens for a reason, especially when you apply for a loan or open a new line of credit or even open a new checking or savings account. The bank then can turn around and sell your private information to third parties. This is one of the main reasons you get so many offers and advertisements from other lending companies to entice you to go with them to purchase what they are offering.
Why do lending companies share or sell your private information?
The bottom line is to make money from the information they already have about you. Plus they can offer more services and introduce new products. Financial institutions, such as banks, collect and share your information with telemarketer companies, direct mailers, retailers and other companies.
On the positive side, consumers are being targeted with discounts through their banks, via emails, text messages and online accounts and are offered deals through different retailers. From a business perspective, it creates an easy and convenient way to increase customer loyalty. This happens when retailers describe what customers they would like to target and your bank sends the retailer your specific profile. When you, as the customer cashes in on the deal, the bank gets paid a commission agreed upon between your bank and the retailer.
What are examples of some financial institutions?
- banks, savings and loans, credit unions, credit card companies, mortgage brokers
- insurance companies, securities and commodities brokerage firms
- financial advisors and credit counseling services
- retailers, such as department stores and gas stations
- automobile dealerships that offer financing or leasing
- check cashers and payday lenders
What are some options about protecting your information and privacy?
You have some (or even limited) rights in protecting your private information. For example, you have the right to opt out of some information sharing procedures with your financial company, as well as non-affiliate companies. However, you must opt out within a "reasonable period of time" â which generally means about 30 days after the company mails you the notice. If you do not act immediately or at least within the time frame specified, the company is free to share information about you. And unfortunately, any personal information that was already shared before you opted out cannot be retrieved.
Some financial institutions may not necessarily plan to share your information except as allowed by law, so read the privacy notice carefully.
What private information is shared with other companies?
Your financial company may share your personal financial information, such as your shopping habits, the kinds of stores you shop, how much you spend and borrow, what you buy, your account balances, timely payment of bills, the type of accounts you have, credit card spending habits, your name and address, monthly income, as well as some other information.
What rights do you have as a consumer, customer, or non-customer?
You do have some choices when it comes to your private information: financial companies are required to give its customers privacy notices that explain their information-sharing practices. You have a right to limit some, but not all, private information sharing procedures. The law is set up in a way where it balances your right to privacy as a consumer or customer with a company's need to provide information for normal business purposes.
Privacy notices explain what personal financial information a financial company collects, shares, and protects and what your rights as a customer are in regard to your personal information. It is important to read these privacy notices since not all privacy documents are the same.
If you prefer to limit the promotions you receive, or if you do not want marketers and others to have your personal financial information, you must take some important steps to reduce this incoming mail. Therefore, the next time you receive a privacy notice, read it carefully and follow the instructions â this will give you some control of what gets shared. You must act quickly and remember these notices are not junk mail.
Unfortunately, federal law is set up in a way to protect big businesses, not individuals. The opt-out option will at least give you some control as to what is being distributed. You also have the option of not doing anything; in this case your personal data will be shared.
Always make sure the mail you receive is actual junk mail before you discard it.
How can you further protect your private information from being shared or sold?
Another way you can protect your information is by contacting each of the financial institutions you do business with and have received notices from and instruct them not to disclose your information. You can do this by writing an email, speaking on the telephone with a representative, or sending a letter.
You may also want to contact the three major U.S. credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) and request they not share your information with telemarketers and direct-mail marketers, or other companies.
Another option is to limit your debit and credit card usage and pay for most of your purchases in cash, or at least whenever possible.
Lastly, you can write to your Congressional representatives to urge them to pass legislation to better protect the individual/consumer and protect his/her privacy.
These choices will at least give you some control over what personal information is shared or will be shared. You as a customer/consumer have certain rights which you should utilize to the fullest. These practices may seem intrusive and abusive, but they are lawful under current law and most likely, you have already agreed to these operations when signing documents or authorizing these acts while completing your form online.
The law office of Morici, Figlioli and Associates (MFA) specializes in personal injury lawsuits. If you have been injured at work or in a car accident, contact our office at (312) 372-9600 to schedule an appointment. We are also available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our friendly staff will promptly reply to your message.
Read our previous article on the subject: Privacy Rights: A type of personal injury? Part I