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Friday, November 16, 2007


With over 50,000 lists on the market being sold hourly by the junk mail industry, I feel it is important that you know something about the kinds of lists where you might find your name and private information. Until consumers are granted control over this sensitive data, there is really nothing you can do to prevent its sale, except put your name on the Direct Marketing Assn.’s (DMA) “Mail Preference List (MPL),” and the FTC’s “Do-Not-Call” list for telephone solicitation. The FTC’s DNC list seems to be working, but I am not so sure of the DMA’s MPS, based on reactions of people who are on it. Besides, the FTC requires all telemarketers to use the DNC, but the DMA’s control over use of the MPS list is limited to their membership. However, some large and well-known junk mailers are not even members, as well as hundreds of smaller companies. When I was still working as a list/data broker, I even ran into the head of a computer processing facility who recommended mailing the Mail Preference List to his clients; the reasoning was these people were receiving very little mail by being on the list. He was also a member of the DMA. This will become a regular feature of The Dunning Letter, based on lists that are applicable. To start, there is a new list by the name of “America’s Wireless/Cell Phone Owners With Opt-In E-Mail Addresses,” that claims to have a universe of over 103 million. You have given this list owner the right to sell your name for e-mail advertising and for telemarketing, and you have identified your wireless carrier. In addition to normal junk mail marketing, the list is being recommended for debt collections and skip tracing; the latter being a method to harvest an individual’s personal data. They know your age, the age of your children, date of birth, income and your lifestyle habits. Next is the “Consumers With High FICO Scores” list which reflects your credit score used for applying for mortgages or other means of credit. There are 431,000 individuals captured from—and this comes straight from the list owner—credit applications you made for high dollar, re-finance or mortgage loans, sold to them by the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. The list is broken down by the typical FICO ratings of 800+, 750-799, 700-749, and 661-699. By the way, they also have a list of those of you with low FICO scores starting with 650 down. I can see a potential problem of “low scores” getting in the wrong hands, since restraints on renting this list would probably be much less stringent than obtaining your FICO score from the credit bureaus. And finally, the “Revolution Automotive Data” list. Take away one source for names, and junk mailers will always find a new one. This was the case when a law prompted by the shooting death of actress Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989, was passed in 1994 preventing states from selling motor vehicle records. Schaeffer’s killer obtained her address from the California Dept. of Motor Vehicles. The law was the “Driver’s Privacy and Protection Act of 1994,” which virtually closed down a complete division of R.L. Polk which compiled and sold the list. The list contains more than 25 million names with the type vehicle owned from Acura to Volvo, including your name/address, telephone number and e-mail address. They also know your age, income and lifestyle habits. It is my opinion as a former list/data broker for 35 years that there are some lists you may choose to be on because you want the latest gardening or apparel catalogs, but there are some you probably don’t want to be on. My guess is the above three fit in the latter category.

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