Confusing E-Mail about Opt-Out Number Sends the Wrong Message

 Updated: April 21, 2005

An unknown individual has broadcast an electronic mail message that has reached tens of thousands of consumers, confusing them with information that is only half correct.


The message explains, erroneously, that as of July 1, 2003, "the four major credit bureaus in the US will be allowed . to release your credit info, mailing addresses, phone numbers..... to anyone who requests it." This is not correct.


The message goes on to explain that you can call a toll-free number, (888) 567-8688, in order to opt-out of having your credit information sold. This is only partially correct.


The author of this message is confusing two separate federal laws. The Financial Services Modernization Act, also known as Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB), required financial institutions to notify all their customers by July 1, 2001 and once a year there after, of their own privacy policies. If the bank, credit card company, insurance company, or brokerage firm sells customer data to third party companies, it must provide its customers the ability to say "no" to such data sharing - in other words, to "opt-out."

But this law says nothing about a toll-free number enabling individuals to do one-stop opting-out. That's a requirement of an amendment to another federal law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA became law in 1970. When it was amended in 1996, one of the provisions was a requirement that the credit bureaus provide an opt-out opportunity for consumers who do not want their names and addresses sold to credit grantors for marketing solicitations. The toll-free number, 888-5optout, was established then. It has been available to consumers for several years. It is not a scam.


The credit bureaus sell names and addresses to credit card companies who in turn mail pre-approved offers of credit to consumers. If you do not want to receive such solicitations, you can call this federally-mandated toll-free number to opt-out: (888) 5-OPTOUT, which is (888) 567-8688. You can also opt out online at The opt out number has erroneously been linked to the July 1st Gramm-Leach-Bliley opt-out notices.


It's important to note that this toll-free number has a limited purpose - simply to enable consumers to opt-out of receiving pre-approved offers of credit. Nothing more.


Below is the e-mail message that has caused such confusion. If you know of individuals who have received this message and have panicked because they thought they missed the July 1st deadline - or who called that number and now think they've been the victim of a scam - please share this message with them. The opt-out number is not a scam. It has a very limited purpose, much different from what the confusing and erroneous e-mail message claims.


The erroneous message:

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
..... to anyone who requests it.

If you would like to 'opt out' of this release of info, you can call
1-888-567-8688. It only takes a couple of minutes to do, and you can
take care of anyone else in the household while making only one call,
you'll just need to know their social security number.

Be sure to listen closely, the first opt out is only for two years, make sure
you wait until they prompt you to press '3' on your keypad to opt out for