Don't Throw It Out! Mandatory Mailer Explains Your Privacy Rights

The more people use the internet, the more 'privacy' becomes an important issue for everybody.   Something Congress passed into law in 1999 is now taking effect -- and financial institutions are scrambling to live up to the letter of the law. And the law says you'll get a letter in the mail, a letter from your bank, your credit card company, your mortgage company...any financial services organization. The form will say something at the top about a privacy policy, and it'll look very, well, boring. Many of you have probably already thrown it away, wondering what it's all about.  Well, it's about your privacy, and you should read it.  Here's why:  when your computer accesses their website, private information about you can be exchanged in the background, that information, too, is personal, and is covered by this privacy policy. "Not only that," says Geralyn Zieglar, Banking Center Manager at Commerce Bank, "But once that information gets to a source that maybe you don't want it to, it can't be taken back."  Here's what your privacy policy should tell you:  it should say what kind of information is being shared within the company's different divisions.   It should tell you what kind of information your financial institution is sharing with other organizations.   The statement should make clear what information you can prevent being shared, and how to go about preventing the information from being shared. That's called an opt-out form.  Read it carefully, and send it in if you don't want to get more junk mail or e-mail. "If they opt out, it limits a lot of telemarketing phone calls, a lot of what we call junk-mail, and that can be bothersome," says Zeiglar.  In fact, anytime you apply for a loan, fill out a request for services, or even apply for a checking account, you've shared personal information that comes under this new privacy policy. "It is really, actually a very good thing, because it balances their right to privacy with the bank's need to share the information for normal business purposes," adds Zieglar.  Those mailings have to be completed by July 1st, so expect to see more of those coming in the mail this month...and we really recommend taking the time to read it.