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How To Opt Out of Prescreened Credit Card Offers

The Prescreen Opt-Out Notice Rule lets you permanently opt out of prescreened offers, or opt out for five years. Here’s how.

The Prescreen Opt-Out Notice Rule lets you permanently opt out of prescreened offers, or opt out for five years. Here’s how.

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      How Do Prescreened Offers Work?

      Prescreened offers work by using credit information furnished by credit bureaus to extend credit or insurance products to qualifying consumers.

      Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), financial institutions can use consumer reports to make firm offers of credit or insurance — unless someone has opted out of being included on prescreened lists.

      Creditors and insurance companies use these reports to offer products with lower annual percentage rates (APRs) to consumers with higher credit scores (660+). In 2022, prescreened offers made way for 16% of applications submitted by consumers with superprime and prime credit scores [*].

      Here’s how their screening process works:

      • Creditors create an eligibility criteria for their offer.
      • They share this criteria with credit bureaus for consumer screening.
      • A list of qualified consumers is then generated.
      • Creditors prepare firm offers for these identified consumers.
      • Qualified consumers receive said prescreened offers.
      • Interested consumers apply for the credit or insurance product.
      • Creditors conduct a final credit check after they receive applications.
      • Approved consumers are granted the product.

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      Ways To Opt Out of Firm Credit Offers

      The Prescreen Opt-Out Notice Rule gives consumers the right to opt out of prescreened credit or insurance offers through predefined systems like OptOutPrescreen.com, a site managed by credit reporting companies [*].

      One reason to opt out of these offers is to cinch unsolicited mail. Besides crowding your mailbox, prescreened offers waste paper and resources.

      But another, more pressing reason to opt out is to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. Scammers can rifle through your mailbox to find prescreened offers.

      They then use phishing schemes or Dark Web marketplaces to obtain your personally identifiable information (PII) to clear the approval process. Or, they may try using a CPN — credit protection number — in place of your Social Security Number (SSN).

      Scammers aren’t the only danger. Family members can use prescreened offers to build up debt in your name. Because of these gaping risks, one in four active account holders opted out of consumer information sharing in 2022 [*].

      If you decide that the benefits of prescreened offers do not outweigh the dangers of identity theft, you have two options to opt out:

      Five-year opt-out

      • Visit OptOutPrescreen.com or call their toll-free number, 1-888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
      • Choose the Electronic Opt-Out for five years option.
      • Be ready to share your name and address. For the next five years, your name will not be eligible for inclusion on lists used for firm offers of insurance or credit.

      Permanent opt-out

      • Visit OptOutPrescreen.com or call their toll-free number, 1-888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
      • Choose the Permanent Opt-Out by Mail option. Fill out your basic information and then mail the Permanent Opt-Out Election Form. It will appear after you hit Confirm.

      Neither form requires you to submit your SSN or date of birth. Limiting what you share decreases any chances of your information ending up in the wrong hands. Once submitted, opt-out requests are processed within five days.

      Note that credit bureaus must opt you out of prescreened offers if you have an active Extended Fraud or Active-Duty Alert [*].

      In 2018, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took legal action against TransUnion for failure to exclude active-duty members and identity theft victims from prescreened solicitations [*].

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      Opting out of offers from companies that don’t use credit bureau lists

      After you’ve opted out, data sharing with affiliates can still happen — even if you’re no longer a customer [*].

      • Chase customers can limit sharing by calling 1-888-868-8618 or starting the process online.
      • Bank of America customers can limit sharing by calling 1-888-341-5000.

      Banks may not share data directly with fraudsters, but that information can be leaked or sold to malicious data brokers who may upload it to the Dark Web.

      Thieves use these lists to place spam calls posing as the “Credit National Assist” hotline, convincing victims to give up their personal information. From there, they spritz victims with fake offers or spoof their identities.

      You may not be able to fully remove your personal information from the internet. But you can minimize the direct marketing offers you get by:

      • Contacting the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to get on its opt-out list. Sign up for DMA’s do-not-mail service by visiting dmachoice.org or fill out and send in this form by mail.
      • Adding yourself to the National Do Not Call Registry. Head to DoNotCall.gov and click on Register Your Phone.
      • Manually removing your information from data broker sites. This process is long-winded because each broker has a different opt-out process. Digital security companies like Aura can remove your private information from data broker sites automatically.
      • Signing up for CatalogChoice. To stop junk mail, you’ll need to create an online account and then select which catalogs and types of mail to eliminate.

      Can Prescreened Offers Help?

      Prescreened credit card offers are not all bad. They expose you to new products; and, depending on your creditworthiness, you may get better interest and approval rates than the general public.

      Plus, issuers only run a soft inquiry on your credit for a prescreened offer, which doesn’t jostle your credit score. If you’ve already opted out but want to opt back in, visit OptOutPrescreen.com.

      Other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

      How are prescreened offers processed?

      1. Creditors create eligibility criteria for their offers

      Creditors take on many forms — auto lenders, mortgage lenders, credit card companies, or insurance agencies. Each creditor has its own set of factors that determine whether you’re a good fit for their offers.

      Where you live, your income level, and your creditworthiness are usually among the first layers of criteria. Credit scores are a standard indicator of creditworthiness because they consider your length of credit history and your ability to make on-time payments.

      2. They share this criteria with credit bureaus for consumer screening

      Creditors send their criteria to Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, which filter their databases for qualifying consumers. Other companies can supply consumer lists for lenders, too. Common data sources include:

      • Innovis, the fourth-largest credit reporting agency.
      • Trade associations.
      • Data brokers.

      3. A list of qualified consumers is generated

      Credit bureaus or other data providers produce reports of consumers that fit the creditor’s desired requirements.

      4. Creditors prepare firm offers for the identified consumers

      Per the FCRA, the terms of a “firm offer” of credit or insurance must be unconditional [*]. Because of that, creditors must spell out their offer terms explicitly, including the product’s APR. Typically, the higher the credit score cut-off for the offer, the lower the APR.

      However, there are situations in which lenders can quote consumers a higher APR than their original offer. For example, a creditor might only offer a product to consumers with a credit score of 650 or more. Say they pull their list in April when your score is 700. Shortly after in May, imagine that your score drops to 600.

      If you try to redeem the offer, the lender can refuse it — you no longer meet their criteria. At that point, they must share [*]:

      • The name, address, and phone number of the agency they used to pull your credit report.
      • The credit score they used to calculate your APR.
      • Key factors that adversely affected your credit score and APR.

      5. Qualified consumers receive said prescreened offers

      Creditors send offers to consumers via snail mail or email. These offers should clearly state that:

      • The terms of the offer were based on the consumer's credit report.
      • The credit or insurance may not be extended if the consumer does not meet all the criteria used to select the consumer for the offer.
      • The consumer has a right to stop information contained in their file from being used in credit or insurance transactions.
      • The consumer can opt out of prescreened offers.

      6. Interested consumers apply for the credit or insurance product

      Upon receiving an application, creditors conduct a final, more detailed credit check for:

      • Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI).
      • Your credit mix.
      • Instances of your name appearing in public records.
      • History of bankruptcy or defaults.

      Some may even request copies of bank statements or pay stubs to verify your income level.

      7. Approved consumers are granted the product

      Consumers receive a confirmation letter and/or email from the issuer. This message includes instructions for activating their new credit card or accessing their insurance policy.

      Can prescreened offers affect your credit score?

      No. Creditors only run soft inquiries for prescreened offers, which don’t influence your credit score. Although soft inquiries can stay on your credit reports for up to two years, they are only visible to you. When lenders pull your credit report, they won’t see any soft inquiries.

      How can you submit opt-outs for your child?

      Credit bureaus don’t build credit files for minor children. But if you’re the victim of identity theft, scammers can open new credit cards and rack up purchases in your children’s names. When banks start tracking your children’s credit, these charges will appear on their credit reports and wreck their credit scores.

      If you suspect identity theft or know someone used your credit card, fill out an identity theft report at IdentityTheft.gov. Doing so will:

      • Help law enforcement find the identity thief.
      • Get you a personalized recovery plan.
      • Act as corroborating evidence for your child’s opt-out request.

      Once that’s submitted, you’ll need to send in a written request to all three major credit bureaus to opt your child out of prescreened offers. In your request, include:

      • A letter explaining how and when the identity theft happened, as well as any fraudulent charges made.
      • Your identity theft report.
      • A copy of your child’s birth certificate.
      • A copy of your child’s Social Security card.
      • A copy of your driver’s license or passport.

      Mail your requests to:

      Experian
      Equifax, Inc.
      TransUnion
      P.O. Box 9532
      Allen, TX 75013
      P.O. Box 740256
      Atlanta, GA 30374
      P.O. Box 505
      Woodlyn, PA 19094-0505

      These envelopes contain sensitive documents, so consider sending them by verified mail to avoid mail theft or other forms of fraud.

      Can a prescreened offer be denied?

      Yes, issuers are not required to grant credit or insurance offers. They may decline their original offer for two reasons:

      1. They find a consumer uncreditworthy or uninsurable. For example, a lender could rescind an offer if they find a consumer has a high total debt-to-income ratio or records of bankruptcy. 
      2. They can’t find evidence that the consumer fits their underwriting criteria. For instance, lenders may decline a mortgage offer if a consumer cannot produce documentation showing they meet the lender’s target income level.

      Under the FCRA, insurance and credit card issuers must keep the criteria they use for each product on file for three years [*]. So, if your offer was declined in the first year, but your credit or insurable status changes by year two, you may become eligible for the offer.

      ⚠️ Take action: Aura’s digital security solution has been rated #1 by Money.com, Tech Radar, Forbes, USA Today, and more. Try Aura free for 14 days to keep your identity safe.

      How is preapproval different from pre-qualified offers?

      Different lenders have different definitions of preapproval and prequalification. Some banks or insurance companies use the two terms interchangeably.

      But, in general, if you’re pre-qualified for an offer, you’ve met the basic criteria for a credit product. A pre-approved credit offer means you’ve already gone through a more thorough creditworthiness check for a riskier credit product, like a car loan or mortgage.

      Here’s a more detailed look at how the two break down:

      Criteria
      Pre-qualified
      Preapproval
      Timing
      Usually happens first. Consumers can then opt into the preapproval process.
      Usually happens second, after prequalification
      Review process
      High-level, such as having a certain credit score or income.
      More in-depth, looking at bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, or other insurance criteria.
      Likelihood of final approval
      Lower, since you’re meeting fewer criteria.
      Higher, since you meet more underwriting criteria.
      Type of credit inquiry
      Soft
      Hard

      Your livelihood depends on your credit. Without a good credit score, it’s harder to apply for a student loan, buy a house, or purchase a car.

      Even if you do everything in your power to maintain good credit, it only takes one spam text, phishing email, or data leak to destroy your score.

      Get near-instant fraud alerts and three-bureau credit monitoring with Aura. Aura’s digital security solution comes with always-on transaction monitoring, Experian credit lock, and other robust anti-spam and malware tools to preserve your hard-earned credit score.

      Sign up for identity theft and credit protection with Aura — free for 14 days.

      Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you to increase awareness about digital safety. Aura’s services may not provide the exact features we write about, nor may cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat discussed in our articles. Please review our Terms during enrollment or setup for more information. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime.

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