Is the infernal ringing of the phone getting to you? Sick of trying to find the phone bill in the stack of official looking yet totally solicitous envelopes in your mailbox?

Opting out of the wide, wide world of marketing has never been easier. Here are five steps to achieving peace of mind (or at least a less cluttered voice and paper mailbox). There's more information on protecting your privacy and improving your lot in the eyes of the lending world in our Achieving Perfect Credit online seminar, which starts in two days.

1. If you haven't yet sampled the government's "Do Not Call" registry, take a coffee break right now and do so. The registry removes your phone number from those pesky marketing lists. Register on the government site (, and you'll be off the lists for five years. However, if the Fraternal Order of Dog Lovers awakens you every third morning, don't expect to sleep in late next Tuesday. Charities, politicians, and other groups are exempt from the do not call rules.

2. Debt consolidators got your number, and you have no debt? We can commiserate. To opt out of calls from businesses (mostly lenders) who get your contact information from your credit reports, call 1-888-5OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) where you can demur from their offers for two years or a blissful "forever."

3. The Direct Marketing Association is a trade group that sells your contact information to -- it seems -- everyone. Unless you're expecting a "Fabulous Free Vacation Offer" with no strings attached in the next five years, we suggest you get off their phone, mail, and email solicitation lists. Unfortunately, opting out from this group's grip comes at a cost ($5) if you want to do it online. For the price of a postage stamp, you can do it via U.S. mail. Click "Register By Mail" on the following pages, print out the forms, and send them off for processing.


4. The recently enacted Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act spells out how your bank, brokerage, mortgage lender, credit union and credit card company can use your personal information. And, boy, are they using it! You have the power to tell them to halt. Unfortunately, there is no single form, phone number, or mailbox to send your request. You have to do a little detective work to get instructions on how to opt out. Many institutions will include this information on their website privacy policy. As an example, here is the opt-out information for MBNA:

Every financial institution is required to provide opt-out capabilities. You can get it on the company's website, or by calling that customer service number on the back of your cards. (Go ahead and clean out your wallet while you're looking.)

5. That pimply-faced checkout clerk at Blockbuster isn't as innocent as he seems. Many other companies collect your personal information and sell it -- and there is nothing illegal about it. However, that doesn't mean you have to stand for it. If Blockbuster, for instance, collects and sells your information? It's online privacy policy is spelled out here. The opt-out provisions at the end of the page, but only to get out of email communications. You'll have to call the customer service number to find out how to take yourself off the regular postal mail and phone lists.

Some companies will not allow you to opt out at all. Nothing in the law says that a non-financial company has to let you opt out. Privacy advocates recommend taking your business elsewhere and then telling the company in a letter why you stopped doing business with them. One letter may not change their policy, but 100,000 might. If you don't let companies know about business practices that you don't like, they won't stop.