As good as they look in your mailbox, a pre-screened credit card offer is not a guarantee of an extension of credit. What’s more, they could actually set you up for identity fraud.
Let’s take a look at what a pre-screened credit offer really means.
You’re in the Ballpark
Financial institutions purchase lists of consumers whose histories fall within certain parameters from credit reporting bureaus. You might even get one if your credit history is less than stellar. Different creditors focus their efforts on varying segments of the spectrum of borrowers.
Some prefer people with stellar credit histories (so-called prime borrowers). Others don’t mind dealing with folks who’ve had a few knocks against them (subprime borrowers). This can be true even if you’ve had credit problems and used a company like Freedom Debt Relief to get your financial situation back on track.
Either way, getting the pre-screened offer simply means you fit a profile.
By the way, that profile could also be based upon more than just your credit history. If you’re an AARP member you might get an offer from one of the organization’s participating banks. Ditto if you own a BMW, a Harley-Davidson, or another luxury product from a company involved in a similar banking relationship.
Still, you’re not guaranteed a card, regardless of what triggered the offer.
You’ll Have to Qualify Just the Same
A financial institution will always run a credit check before issuing a card, even when pre-screened offers are sent to borrowers who are considered prime. They have to make sure your situation is the same as when the reporting agency included your name on the list they bought.
In other words, if you decide to accept one of those offers, they’ll treat you like any random person who showed up and asked for a card. They’ll do a hard inquiry on your credit report, which will be reflected there and could impact your credit score. Inquiries tied to “hard” requests for credit can count toward determining your creditworthiness.
You’re at Risk for Identity Theft
It’s a good idea to check your mailbox daily if you’re getting pre-screened credit card offers. Do not allow them to languish there. Unscrupulous individuals could remove them, apply and have a card with your name on it sent to a different address.
The best thing to do is to retrieve them as soon as possible and always shred them before discarding them. Crooks are perfectly willing to go rooting through trash to get their hands on pre-screened offers.
They Can be Stopped
While the flood of invitations might seem relentless, the Federal Trade Commission says you can opt-out of receiving them for five years, or permanently.
Five years: Call toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com. The phone number and website are operated by the major consumer reporting companies.
Permanently: Begin online at www.optoutprescreen.com. To complete your request, you must return the signed Permanent Opt-Out Election form, which will be provided after you initiate your online request.
You can also send a permanent opt-out request to each of the major consumer reporting companies directly if you don’t have internet access. Include your home telephone number, name, Social Security number, and date of birth
P.O. Box 919
Allen, TX 75013
Name Removal Option
P.O. Box 505
Woodlyn, PA 19094
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123
Innovis Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 495
Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0495
So, there you have it. What a pre-screened credit offer actually means is they will decide whether to give you a card once they’ve really checked you out.