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NetSpend & Prepaid Debit Cards You Didn’t Apply For

The other day an old college friend of mine emailed me about a strange thing he received in the mail. One of those prepaid debit card companies apparently sent him a debit card that he never remembered applying for. When he called the company up, they said that the card wasn’t activated and wouldn’t be activated until he called in and deposited money on the card. It was a prepaid debit card so you can’t even use it until you deposit money. This reminded me of a story [3] I read on Wise Bread a long long time ago in which Xin Lu received an unsolicited prepaid debit card from NetSpend, one of many prepaid debit card companies. I don’t know if my friend got one from them or someone else (there are plenty of companies in this space), I didn’t ask, but here’s what I told him.

Check for Identity Theft

Anytime someone I don’t know starts sending me something financial in nature, I get spooked. While it’s unlikely that his identity was stolen, it had been over a year since he reviewed his credit reports. I recommended that he go to AnnualCreditReport.com and pull a report from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. While his identity wasn’t stolen, he did find a few minor mistakes which he was able to remedy pretty quickly. While it was good that his identity hadn’t been stolen, it could have been and he wasn’t on top of it.

Poor Man’s Monitoring

Don’t worry, I didn’t go Suze Orman on him and tell him that he was a moron for not checking his reports (Suze Orman has a prepaid debit card too!), but I did tell him to sign up for Credit Karma [4] as a poor man’s credit monitoring [5]. If someone applies for a credit card, he’ll know because his Credit Karma score will take a hit. You can’t beat that for free monitoring.

Opt Out!

Finally, companies like NetSpend will often buy marketing lists to get more leads. It’s the reason why you get 15 phone calls whenever you try to research loans on LendingTree. The easiest way to pull yourself out of that is to opt out via OptOutPrescreen.com [6]. You can sign up to opt out of firm offers of credit for 5 years or permanently, which means you should never get another fake debit card solicitation ever again. Companies you have a relationship can still send you mailings but new ones can’t. To opt out of those companies, contact their marketing departments and ask to get off the marketing lists.

I think there’s a time and place for prepaid debit cards but it really freaked out my friend when he got, what he thought was, a credit card in the mail. These companies need to wise up on how they market to new customers.

(Photo: declanjewel [7])