Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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?Opt-Out?- Personal information goes public?

You may have received a widely circulated e-mail that claims that as of July 1 credit reporting agencies can share your credit history with anyone, at any time for any reason.

The false e-mail begins:

" Just wanted to let everyone know who hasn't already heard, the four major credit bureaus in the U.S. will be allowed, starting July 1, to release your credit info, mailing addresses, phone numbers..."

Many consumers have received this alarming email telling them that they must take action in order to protect their credit information from being released to anyone who asks. This is false. Federal law prohibits such a practice.

The date actually refers to July 1st 2001. This date was when all financial institutions had to notify you of an ?opt-out clause.? The Financial Services Modernization Act, also known as the Gramm-Leech-Bliley Act (GLB), places restrictions on when financial institutions may disclose a consumer's personal financial information to nonaffiliated third parties. Financial institutions are required to provide notices to their customers about their information-collection and information-sharing practices. Consumers may decide to "opt out" if they do not want their information shared with nonaffiliated third parties.

Many businesses gain control of information about you through various methods including swapping, selling and research. Congress passed the Gramm-Leech-Bliley Act to help protect consumers. If you had no idea about the ?opt-out clause? don?t despair. You may at any time ask your financial institution that has information about you to refrain from sharing it. It is your right as a consumer.

Since 1997, the major credit reporting companies have offered an ?opt-out? program available to anyone who wants to remove their names from mailing lists for pre-approved offers of credit. You can contact the credit reporting companies involved - Experian, Innovis, TransUnion and Equifax ? or call 888 5OPT OUT (888 567 8688). You will be given a choice to opt out for two years or permanently. If you elect to opt out permanently, you will be mailed a Notice of Election to Opt Out Permanently, which you must sign and return to activate your permanent opt-out.