By Nancy B. Peterson,
Kansas State University
Consumers who dismiss recent mailings from their bank or other financial service providers as ‘junk’ or other unsolicited mail may miss an opportunity to protect their privacy, said Joyce Jones, Kansas State University Research and Extension family financial specialist.
The mailings — which may be sent in the form of a letter, brochure, or inserted into a bill or other monthly statement - offer consumers an opportunity to limit the amount of personal and/or financial information certain businesses will be allowed to share, she said.
The right-to-privacy notices result from a recent federal law, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, and must be sent to customers by July 1, 2001. Banks, savings and loans, credit unions, insurance companies, securities firms, and some retailers who offer or arrange credit are examples of the types of businesses that are mailing privacy notices to their customers.
"Businesses collect information about their customers as part of their everyday business operation. They share it with other businesses within a ‘parent’ corporation or with an affiliated business. Some also share information with ‘unaffiliated’ businesses, such as other retailers, telemarketers, or non-profit organizations," Jones said.
There will be some information customers cannot prevent businesses from sharing, such as information needed to help conduct normal business; information that is ‘publicly available;’ information needed to protect customers against fraud or unauthorized transactions, and information that is used as part of a ‘joint marketing agreement.’
Some customers don’t mind sharing this information - it offers them opportunities to find out about new products and services.
Other customers prefer to reduce unsolicited mailings and telephone calls, and also protect their privacy, Jones said.
"Each person has to decide whether or not they want to limit this sharing of information," Jones said.
Notices may differ in appearance or presentation. Look for clarification about the type of information the business shares and who they share it with; what information customers can choose not to share, and how customers can go about ‘opting out’ of this sharing.
"Not all opt-out plans are the same. Some may require a telephone call; others may require completing a form and returning it. So read the notices carefully," the family financial specialist said.
For more information on family finance and money management, interested
persons can contact their local K-State Research and Extension office.