Opting Out of Student Loan Solicitations
Students who begin receiving loan service solicitations shortly after taking out student loans often ask themselves, "How did these companies get my address?"
"I never used to get [solicitations] until I got loans," says Jessica Coulter, 23, a law student in Virginia Beach, Va. "Did the loan company give out my name?"
The answer is probably yes, but there are other possible explanations for her sudden increase in mailings. Loan companies share customer information with their affiliates, credit bureaus, and companies with which they do business. Universities also sometimes provide the names and addresses of students to those who ask for them; some states allow the colleges to do so without students' consent.
Loan companies generally explain their privacy policies on their websites. Sallie Mae, the nation's largest student loan provider, states in its policy, "We sometimes share customer information with outside companies that perform services for us or provide various financial products." The policy also explains that Sallie Mae sometimes provides not only customer contact information but also account details, such as the size of customers' loans, maturity dates, monthly payments, and payment history.
Collegiate Funding Services, a division of JPMorgan Chase, says that it shares information with other financial companies as well as with auto dealers and membership clubs.
Customers can choose to opt out of this information-sharing, but doing so requires action on their part. Like many companies, Collegiate Funding Services and Sallie Mae provide their phone numbers and addresses online for customers who wish to request that their information not be shared. Companies also send customers letters detailing their privacy policies, with instructions on how to opt out.
"Most students, like the rest of us, don't respond to those letters [about the opt-out policy]," says Robert Shireman, executive director of the Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit Project on Student Debt. As a result, he says, "They end up selling the [address] lists; then we get those mass mailings."
Companies are often reluctant to reveal exactly how they get potential customers' addresses, so it can be difficult to track down the reason for a sudden influx of mail in particular cases. Greg Hassell, spokesman for Collegiate Funding Services, said the company targets recent graduates or students nearing graduation, but he would not say how it gets their addresses.
Ways to opt out
Unlike the National Do Not Call Registry for unwanted phone solicitations, there is no one-stop shopping for opting out of mail solicitations. In addition to writing to their loan companies, consumers can also ask credit bureaus, which collect information from companies providing loans and credit to consumers, to stop sharing their personal information.
The Federal Trade Commission suggests the following ways to opt out:
- Contact credit bureaus at 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) to stop getting pre-approved credit offers.
- Write to the three biggest credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to request that they stop sharing your personal information. The FTC's website provides their addresses and a sample letter.
- Register with the Direct Marketing Association, an industry group, to opt out of receiving direct-mail marketing from its members for five years.