Free Tools for Taking Charge of your Privacy
Expecting? How about those diaper coupons in the mail! Moving? Well, what do you know, an ad for packing supplies pops up on your screen. We all react differently to marketing based on our purchase history or internet browsing activity—a welcome convenience to some may feel intrusive to others. On the other hand, we all want to protect our personal information from identity theft, but we may have different comfort levels when it comes to the conveniences we’re willing to give up to secure our identities.
There are a number of free tools you can choose from to help take control of your privacy, both online and off, and secure your identity at a level that feels right for you.
Get Off Mailing Lists
The Direct Marketing Association allows you to remove your address from mailing lists used to send you marketing materials based on your past purchases and interests (e.g., magazine offers, catalogs, donation requests). You can keep the mail you want and block materials you’re not interested in.
Opt-out of Online Behavioral Advertising
Some ads you see online are customized based on information gathered about your interests as you browse the Web. The Digital Advertising Alliance’s consumer choice page allows you to opt-out of receiving ads from participating ad networks.
Stop Preapproved Credit Card Offers
You have the right to opt-out of being included on lists companies use to mail you credit card and insurance offers.
Block Telemarketing Calls
The National Do Not Call Registry lets you limit the telemarketing calls you receive. Once you register your phone number, covered telemarketers have up to 31 days to stop calling you.
Add a Security Freeze
A security freeze locks down your credit reports so criminals can’t access your credit to open unauthorized accounts (existing credit accounts are not impacted). There may be fees associated with a security freeze in your state. To be effective, a freeze must be implemented with all three credit reporting agencies. Learn more.
Place a Fraud Alert
A fraud alert is a less drastic measure than a security freeze. An alert flags your credit reports, alerting lenders to verify the identity of anyone attempting to open an account in your name. Fraud alerts are free, but rely on the diligence of the person performing the credit check. Fraud alerts must be reinstated every 90 days in most cases. You only need to contact one credit reporting agency to place an alert—it must notify the others.
Check your Credit Reports
Monitoring your credit reports is key to catching identity theft early. You can request a free copy of your report every 12 months from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Spacing these checks out allows you to monitor your credit throughout the year.
About Emma Fletcher
Emma Fletcher is the Manager of BBB EU Safe Harbor, a privacy dispute resolution program, for the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Arlington, VA. Emma is a Certified Information Privacy Professional is and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration.