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Ask The Experts: How to Opt Out of Pre-Approved Offers

Monday, 9 Feb 2009 | 2:01 PM ET

My credit card company sends me these annoying ‘checks’ in the mail each month. They aren’t really checks, I think theyre so you can write a check against your credit card or something? Anyway the point is I just throw them out but I realized the other day that they have my account number printed on them! For all I know, someone picked through my garbage and found my credit card #! What can I do about this? -Sean, CT

These checks are very concerning to me as well. You are correct in assuming there is a risk with throwing them in the trash as there have been numerous cases in which identity thieves have stolen these checks and used them to rack up thousands of dollars worth of debt. In addition often the companies offering these checks charge a hidden fee that most people don’t realize gets tacked on when they use the checks.

The first thing you should do is buy a shredder. Anything from a bill to those pesky checks should be shredded before you put them in the trash. This is you best line of defense above everything else.

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Next, contact any of your credit card companies and notify them you don’t want to receive those checks in the future. Some companies will require you to submit something in writing. In those cases, make sure you do. The few minutes of time it will take you to send the letter is far less then the time it takes to clean up after identity theft.

Also, while you are at it I strongly encourage you to register to opt-out of pre-approved offers. These are those letters you probably get on a daily basis telling you you’re pre-approved for a credit card. The phone number is 1-888-5 OPT OUT (1-888-567-8688). You can choose to opt out for 5 years or for life. (Note: To opt out you will be required to give your social security number.)

Jim Stickley is an On The Money contributor, CTO at TraceSecurity Inc and author of

The Truth About Identity Theft. A renowned security expert, he has been involved in thousands of security services for corporations worldwide. You can contact Jim at jim@stickleyonsecurity.com.