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ANSWERS



Published: Thu, June 7, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



ANSWERS

Consumer privacy

Q. What is the first step I can take to protect my personal financial information?

A. Pay attention to the mail you receive from your bank, insurance company, credit card company and brokerage firm. Look for words such as "Privacy Notice," "Privacy Policy" and "Opt-Out Notice." You might receive such notices via e-mail if that is the way you normally do business with these companies.

Q. Will the notice explain the new law and the rights it gives me?

A. Not in so many words. Some companies may use the notice as a marketing opportunity. Instead of referring to your rights under the law, you may see statements at the beginning of the notice such as these: "Because we respect your privacy …," or "In order to provide you with the best services ..."

Q. Will the notice tell me exactly what information the company has about me?

A. No. The notice need only be general in nature, and an identical notice will be sent to all the company's customers. Do not expect to see anything that applies specifically to you. You will have to read between the lines. If a notice says that the company collects information from applications you filled out, think about the kinds of information you are required to give on an application for credit or a loan.

Q. Will the notice tell me what to do if I want to opt-out?

A. Yes. The notice will most likely give you three choices: Send a letter or return an attached form to an address given in the notice, call a toll-free number given in the notice or opt-out online if that is the way you normally do business with the company.

Q. Will the privacy notice come from my bank?

A. Yes. And if you have active accounts with a brokerage house, credit card company or insurance company, you will receive a privacy notice from these institutions as well. The term "financial institution" includes companies you might not consider to be financial institutions such as payday loan companies, collection agencies and travel agents.

Q. Do I have only one chance to opt-out?

A. No. Your right to opt-out is continuing. If you fail to return the initial opt-out notice or an annual opt-out notice, your financial institution may sell or share your personal data after a & quot;reasonable & quot; time, usually 30 days.

Source: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse




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