Privacy statements offer anything but

Pete:

What’s up with privacy notifications? My bank sends them to me every year.

The notice first states what they do with “your personal information.” Then they list “reasons they can share your personal information.” If that makes you see red, then they say you can “limit their sharing” by calling or going online.

What’s your advice? Can you limit their “sharing,” or will that just screw up your relationship with them? Does any of this (sharing or not sharing) impact your credit score?

— Bill

You know those slips of paper mailed to you throughout the year from the bank? The ones you recycle immediately? Yep, those. Bill has a great question, one most people probably aren’t asking since they’ve never bothered to read the statements before. I know I never had. Until I got Bill’s question.

So I started reading. Man, they are super boring. That is until I noticed this reoccurring phrase: “All financial companies need to share customers’ personal information to run their everyday business.” Really?

I’m not buying it, but then again, it doesn’t really matter. By agreeing to my bank’s privacy policy I’ve signed away my rights to privacy. What exactly do I mean?

Your bank reserves the right, which you grant them by accepting their customer agreement, to share your data with basically whomever they want. They share your data with every entity in which the bank owns. They share your data with marketing companies. And you know they obviously share your data with the credit bureaus. What do the credit bureaus do with the data? They share it with other organizations. (courtesy of the Indy Star)

You read that correctly.

Oh, and don’t think leaving your bank will help. They have also reserved the right to share your data even after you are no longer their client.

I’m not writing this to discourage you. I’m simply relaying facts. It’s not great, but there also isn’t anything you can do about your bank sharing your information. But there is something you can do to prevent people using your data against you. FREEZE YOUR CREDIT. Sorry for yelling, but you know freezing your credit is my thing. It is simply the only way to totally protect yourself from identity theft and fraud. Best part is in most states it’s free to do. I’ve laid out the specific instructions for freezing your credit here. Don’t quite see it my way yet? Here is a detailed reasoning behind why freezing your credit is the best way to protect yourself.

The “privacy” afforded you by your bank isn’t ideal, but there is an action you can take to protect yourself. So do it.

Read my full Indy Star column here.

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