Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Warning if you don't open (and respond) to snail mail from American Express, they will sell your personal information!

I get snail (mostly junk) mail from credit issuers, daily. Being concerned about identity theft and my personal privacy, I try to shred all of them. But am I doing the right thing? As you will see, some of them probably hope I never do.

Here is what happened to someone, who is a lot more diligent than I am (he actually opens the mail). Christoper Null (ATT/Yahoo Tech blogger) got his most recent privacy notice from American Express, which informed him if he didn't want all of his personal and financial information sold, he needed to opt-out with them.

They gave him two methods to do so, snail mail and a 1-800 number. Chris selected the 1-800 number and here is what happened:

I call (800-297-8378 if you want to try it for yourself). I get a recording welcoming me American Express and notifying me that the call could be recorded... thenabruptly says: "The computer system needed to answer your questions is not available." And it hangs up.

Now I understand computers go down, but that was five days ago, and I'm still getting the recording. Will it ever come back online or is it all a scam? The paranoid side of me believes that there is no computer connected to this 800 number, and that it's designed to trick me into forgetting about the entire matter and being too lazy to fill out the paperwork so I'll remain opted in.

According to several comments on his post, the 1-800 was down for quite awhile.

He later (being the saavy tech guy he is) tried to go to their webstite to opt-out and was only able to opt out from electronic, not snail communication.

Very REVEALING post from Chris, here.

It is pretty scary that credit card companies require us to opt-out, and if we don't, they sell our information to, anyone and everyone. After all, selling information, is highly profitable.

The Personal Finance Blog did a post about how much personal information is worth (retail-value), here.

The post is about a year old, and the prices might vary, depending on who is selling it.

I guess the finance industry has found a way to get around recent privacy concerns, and they do it under the guise of a privacy notice!

It's no wonder there is so much identity theft!


Anonymous said...

Great. Now I'll have to start reading all those letters from credit card companies. Any idea if Capital One does this as well? I get so much junk mail from them...

Ed Dickson said...

Not sure about Capital One - this was new to me, also.

Plan to do some checking myself.

Anonymous said...

Ack! I am so fed up with spam and I can't believe AMEX is being so sneaky! Thanks for hte heads up.