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You Stop--and What Cant You Stop?
Youve probably been receiving privacy notices from banks and other financial companies. These notices explain:
Financial companies share information for many reasons: to offer you more services, to introduce new products, and to profit from the information they have about you. If you like to know about other products and services, you may want your financial company to share your personal financial information; in this case, you dont need to respond to the privacy notice. If you prefer to limit the promotions you receive or do not want marketers and others to have your personal financial information, you must take some important steps.
First, it is important to read these privacy notices. They explain how the company handles and shares your personal financial information. Keep in mind that not all privacy notices are the same. This guide tells you about the other steps you can take to help protect the privacy of your personal financial information.
What Can You Stop--and What Cant You Stop?
Federal privacy laws give you the right to stop (opt out of) some sharing of your personal financial information. These laws balance your right to privacy with financial companies need to provide information for normal business purposes. (For more information on these laws, see the appendix.) You have the right to opt out of some information sharing with companies that are:
But you cannot opt out and completely stop the flow of all your personal financial information. The law permits your financial companies to share certain information about you without giving you the right to opt out. Among other things, your financial company can provide to non-affiliates:
Your Right to Opt Out
A privacy notice contains information about the companys data collection and information sharing policies. If a financial company does not plan to share your information except as permitted by law, the notice will tell you this; in this case, you dont have a right to opt out.
Non-affiliates. If you have the right to opt out (that is, if the company plans to share your information), the privacy notice will include instructions on how to opt out of sharing some information. Unless you opt out, your financial company can provide your personal financial information (for example, information on the kinds of stores you shop at, how much you borrow, your account balances, or the dollar value of your assets) to non-affiliates for marketing and other purposes.
Affiliates. The privacy notice may also give you the right to opt out of certain information sharing with affiliates. For example, if a company intends to provide an affiliate with personal information from your credit report or loan application, you will usually first be given a chance to opt out. Companies, however, can share information about you with affiliates when the information is based solely on your transactions with that company (transaction information includes whether you pay your bills on time, the type of accounts you have with the company, and so forth). Read your notices carefully to see if this type of opt out applies.
If you want to opt out of information sharing, you must follow the directions provided by your financial company. For example, you may have to call a toll-free number or fill out a form and return the form to the company.
In some cases, your financial company may give you the choice to opt out of different types of sharing. For example, you could opt out of certain categories of information the company provides to other companies but allow the company to share other kinds of information.
Privacy Notices You May Receive
Initial Privacy Notice. You will usually receive a privacy notice when you open an account or become a customer of a financial company. If you open an account over the phone, however, and you agree, the company may send you a notice at a later time.
A privacy notice may be included as an insert with your monthly statement or bill, or it may be sent to you in a separate mailing. If you agree to electronic delivery from an on-line financial company, the notice may be sent to you by e-mail or it may be made available to you on the companys web site.
If you have more than one account with the same company, the company may send you only one privacy notice for all of your accounts or it may send you separate notices for each of your accounts.
If you have a joint account with another person (for example, a joint checking account or a mortgage loan), the financial company may send a notice to one of you or to each person listed on the account. If the company provides an opportunity to opt out, it must let one of the account holders opt out for all joint account holders.
What to Do When You Receive Your Notices
Where Else to Turn for Help
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Regulates state-chartered banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System, bank holding companies, and branches of foreign banks
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Regulates commodity brokers, commodity trading advisors, commodity pools, and introducing brokers
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Regulates state-chartered banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System
Federal Trade Commission
Regulates any financial company not covered by the other federal regulators such as mortgage brokers, tax and investment services, finance companies, credit bureaus, nonbank lenders, auto dealers, leasing companies, appraisers, real estate settlement services, credit counseling services, and collection agency services
National Credit Union Administration
Regulates federally chartered credit unions
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Regulates national banks, District of Columbia banks, federal branches and federal agencies of foreign banks, and subsidiaries of such entities. These typically include banks with "national" or "N.A." in their names.
Office of Thrift Supervision
Regulates federal savings and loan associations and federal savings banks
Securities and Exchange Commission
Regulates brokerage firms, mutual fund companies, and investment advisors
Two federal laws cover different aspects of how companies can share your financial information, as described in this guide: the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act protects the privacy of certain information distributed by consumer reporting agencies (CRAs). Most CRAs are credit bureaus that gather and provide information about you, such as if you pay your bills on time or have filed for bankruptcy, to creditors and other businesses. Under the law, credit bureaus and other CRAs can release your information only to those third parties that have certified that they have a purpose permitted by the law to obtain your consumer report, such as to evaluate your application for credit, insurance, or employment, or to rent you an apartment.
When a financial company obtains your credit report from a credit bureau, it may want to share that information with an affiliate, meaning a company that owns your financial company, that your financial company owns, or that is part of the same parent organization or corporate family. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, however, if the financial company plans to share certain information--for example, from your credit report or your credit application--with its affiliates, it will usually first notify you and give you an opportunity to opt out. This notice is likely to be included in the privacy notice you receive from the financial company under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act requires financial companies to tell you about their policies regarding the privacy of your personal financial information. With some exceptions, the law limits the ability of financial companies to share your personal financial information with certain non-affiliates. A non-affiliate is a company that is unrelated to your financial company, and may include:
Under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, your financial company can provide your personal financial information to non-affiliated service providers including joint marketers. But before it shares your information with other third-party non-affiliates (outside of these exceptions), your financial company must tell you about its information sharing practices and give you the opportunity to opt out.
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