Do you get unsolicited credit card or insurance offers in the mail constantly? I recently learned that credit reporting companies (TransUnion, Experian, Equifax, and Innovis) sell your information to companies that then use this information to send you these unsolicited offers. The process is called “pre-screening”.
If you run your credit report, you will see both “hard inquiries” and “soft inquiries”. A hard inquiry is when you are applying to borrow money. For example, you are buying a new home and need a mortgage. The mortgage company will make a “hard inquiry” into your credit. This type of inquiry is initiated by you, the borrower.
A “soft inquiry” can be a variety of things. If you authorize an employer to check your credit, they do so using a soft inquiry. Another example is car insurance. Some car insurance companies offer better rates for people with good or excellent credit and will periodically check your credit to make sure you still qualify. These soft inquiries don’t harm your credit score as they aren’t getting as much information as a hard inquiry will provide. Credit Reporting Companies will run lists for credit card companies and others that meet their criteria and then provide a mailing list to those companies. I was surprised to see over twenty soft inquiries made on my credit by two different credit card companies…that I have never had a card for!
There is good news. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to opt-out of soft inquiries that you did not authorize by going to www.optoutprescreen.com. You have two options for opting out: electronically for five years, or by sending in a form via mail for a permanent opt-out. I chose the permanent option and the information I had to submit was my name, address, social security number, and date of birth. When you print the form out, it omits your social security number and date of birth. It was simple and took less than two minutes to complete.
The only downside I have found from opting out is Trooper and I have fewer walks to the mailbox to get junk mail!
Authored by Jay Poole, AAMS®