Q: Can Action Line tell me how I can put a stop to getting all these preauthorized credit card applications that arrive in the mail?
A: Opt out of receiving prescreened or preapproved credit card offers by calling 888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688), toll-free, or by logging on to www.optoutprescreen.com.
You'll need to provide your Social Security number since that's how the credit reporting bureaus identify you. You may still get a few card offers while the information is entered into your credit file at four credit reporting bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax and Innovis).
Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, all preapproved credit card offers must now clearly and simply explain how to refuse the offer. Opting out reduces the chance of identity theft -- and also saves a great deal of paper and ink. You can always opt in later by calling the same number.
Some people worry that their credit rating will be affected by these offers, but federal law doesn't permit that. It may be affected if you apply for credit because that's what initiates the ''inquiry'' by the credit grantor. Every time you apply for a card, even in response to a preapproved offer, the lender will check your credit history and that inquiry will be recorded in your file. Credit grantors get nervous when they see that there have been lots of inquiries; it could be an indication of financial trouble.
Learn more at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/prescreen.htm. Information about preventing and dealing with identity theft can be found at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or by calling 877-382-4357, toll-free.
Q: I've been receiving unsolicited faxes. I've called the numbers listed on the fax to ''unsubscribe,'' but that has gotten me nowhere.
A: The FCC fines companies that violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, which basically states that companies can't send unsolicited faxes to your home or business without first having your express permission or unless they have an established business relationship with you.
To file a complaint with the FCC, complete an online complaint form at www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html or call the FCC's Consumer Center at 888-CALL-FCC (888-225-5322), toll-free.
Q: My cell number is listed on the national Do Not Call Register.
The other day, I got a call from a number I didn't know, but nobody answered. WHen I Googled the number, at www.800notes.com, I found dozens of reports from people complaining about the same number, a telemarketer. I filed a complaint at www.donotcall.gov.
Isn't it illegal for telemarketers to call cellphones? Which government agency is responsible for investigating and what does it do to stop it?
A: First, it's illegal for telemarketers to use automated dialing equipment to call a cell number, but if the number isn't on the national Do Not Call registry, they can make individual calls. (Call 888-382-1222, toll-free, to register.) Since most telemarketers only use mass dialers, most calls to cellphones are probably illegal.
The Federal Trade Commission enforces the rules; it doesn't, however, reveal any information about who or what it's investigating. That can only be made public when the FTC's five-member commission (appointed by the president) agrees by vote that there's enough evidence to take the matter to court. Court papers, which are public record, are filed, and the FTC puts the information on its website, www.ftc.gov.
The FTC can only file civil actions, but they may result in hefty fines, such as $11,000 per violation of the Do Not Call rules. Agreements and judgments often include ''fencing-in provisions'' to discourage crooks from starting up again with a new company. Should the provisions be egregiously violated, the FTC hands the matter over to the Department of Justice, which can file criminal charges.