Break the Chain Give 'Em Some Credit

Created 10/16/2001 (4/8/2003) E-mail is a terrible tool for spreading information, but it is very good at propagating paranoid misinformation. That's definitely the case with this warning about your credit privacy.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

IMPORTANT LAW CHANGE: CREDIT REPORTING

FYI

CALL: 1-888-567-8688

Just wanted to let everyone know who hasn't already heard, the four major credit bureaus in the US will be allowed, starting July 1, to release your credit info, mailing addresses, phone numbers, etc., to anyone who requests it. If you would like to 'opt out' of this release of your info, you can call 1-888-567-8688. It only takes a couple of minutes to do.

Once the message starts you'll choose option #2 (even though option #1 refers to this E-mail) and then option #3 - Be sure to listen closely, the first option is only for a two-year period. Make sure you wait until they prompt for the third option, which opts you out forever.

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

This letter contains a small bit of useful information, but a heaping helping of ignorant misinformation. First of all, contrary to what this letter would have you believe, credit bureaus are not allowed to release your credit info "to anyone who requests it." The Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1997 requires that businesses requesting information be "legitimate" and have "permissible purpose" to access your report.

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Far from being a huge threat to your credit privacy, the Financial Services Modernization Act enacted July 1, 2001, contained some important privacy protection improvements. The new act grants banks and other institutions the same rights as credit bureaus to share your information to businesses with permissible purpose. But, it required that all financial institutions send privacy notices to their customers informing them of their right to "opt out" of this information sharing arrangement and identifying the types of information that can be shared.

Nevertheless, calling 1-888-567-8688 will do nothing to protect your credit privacy under this act, as a recording at the number explains. It will opt you out of credit offers, but offers no protection about the sharing of your credit information with businesses who request it. Instead, the recording recommends you contact every financial institution with which you are doing or have done business (banks, insurance companies, securities firms, credit card companies, etc.) individually to opt out of information sharing. There is no easy, one-call fix to this perceived problem.

Some opportunistic scammers have co-opted this chain letter to do a little financial damage themselves. They have replaced the phone number in some versions with another one that they use to dupe unsuspecting folks into giving them vital information about themselves (including social security number).

This letter first showed its ugly head as July 1, 2001 approached. Because the author decided to cite only July 1, not the year, it returned in March/April, 2002 and again in 2003. Consumer advocates have picked up on it and made some strong efforts to get the truth out and stop the spread of this incomplete and misleading chain letter. Help them out and Break this Chain!

What Do You Think?

Category: Real, But...
References: Snopes.com

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