DMV Isn't Alone in Selling Private Information
Posted July 6, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH — There's a pecking order inside your mailbox. Letters with money rank first, bills last and junk mail somewhere in between. The typical mail box overflows with credit card offers, refinancing deals and catalogs.
Many North Carolinians turned privacy disclosure forms in to keep their names off a Division of Motor Vehicles list that's sold to marketing companies, but that list is just the tip of the iceberg.
Many catalogs peddle people's personal information. Some even break the records down by gender, age, income, marital status and so on.
"I get a catalog once a week that probably has over a hundred resources in it of people that I can call and get a list of a particular characteristic or profile of a customer," says Don Roberts of Money Mailer.
Money Mailer is one example of a direct mail company. The industry has grown more than 150 percent in the last 10 years. Roberts gets his list of records through a compiler, which keeps a database of addresses and phone numbers. That information can even be obtained in the white pages.
Some magazines keep a data base of their own that they sell to compilers.
"If I'm willing to pay the price, I can buy the list, including some national magazines you'd be very surprised to hear about. Like.Sports Illustrated."
When someone moves and changes his address for a magazine subscription, he's also updating that magazine's customer database. The same goes with catalogs. When one comes in the mail it's usually followed by several more, so buyer beware.
"So you need to be very careful about filling out forms for applications and contests because what they're in fact doing is building a database," says
When it comes right down to it, the direct mail industry is so large there's really not a whole lot anyone can do. There are hundreds of database companies with personal information for sale.
"You will get mailings and you will be on somebody's list somewhere and I don't know of any way to avoid that," says
"If you don't want your name on the Money Mailer list you can call and get it off. Some companies may do that.
The Direct Marketing Association also has a couple of forms you can fill out to try and reduce telemarketing and direct mail.
The public has a very strong opinion on junk mail. Since last week when WRAL's Lynda Loveland first told you about the DMV selling personal records, more than 50,000 people have turned in privacy disclosure forms and they're still coming in.