July 18, 2013

Editorial: Steps to protect your privacy


---- — Who hasn’t been annoyed, when relaxing at home in the evening, to answer a phone call and find it is a solicitor — human or otherwise — on the other end of the line?

Or to open the mailbox and find it stuffed with junk mail?

Technological advances have made it easy for politicians, businesses and agencies to disrupt our privacy. Even if we try to ignore the intrusions on our life, the onslaught continues via phone, mail and the Internet.

We don’t have to surrender to the bombardment. It will take a little work, but you can cut down on the unwanted communications.

The Better Business Bureau offers these suggestions:

To cut down on junk mail and spam: Pre-approved credit-card offers are an easy target for identity thieves, who can steal incoming mail and use the offers to open fraudulent credit accounts. U.S. consumers can “opt-out” of receiving pre-approved credit-card offers for at least five years by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit:

Stop unwanted direct-mail solicitations: To end most mailings, people can go to and opt out of mail from members of the Direct Marketing Association. The group regularly updates its list, according to the Better Business Bureau, but it may take up to six months before solicitations from all its members stop.

Curb calls from telemarketers: The National Do Not Call Registry is a free, easy way to reduce the telemarketing calls made to residences. To register your phone number or to get information, visit or call (888)-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register. You will get fewer telemarketing calls within 31 days of registering your number.

To reduce spam text messages: First and foremost, don’t respond. Responding to the text message only confirms a working number and opens the door for more messages, the Better Business Bureau warns.

If your number is already on the Do Not Call Registry and you’re still receiving messages and phone calls, file a complaint with the FCC.

The Better Business Bureau also suggests that people consider PrivacyStar. AT&T and Verizon have introduced PrivacyStar to give people back control of their smartphones. The application, which is available in the United States for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone, lets you block unwanted numbers, look up unknown numbers and file a complaint with the FTC. Another app that performs a similar function is Do Not Disturb.

But remember that some apps charge a fee. For example, Privacy Star has some free functions and some that include a monthly charge.

If you want to address all privacy issues — mail, Internet and cellphone — you will have to take steps to make it happen. It’s impossible to eliminate all outside intrusions, but you can put a nice dent in them.