It can be hard enough for adults to resist the steady stream of tempting junk mail solicitations offering easy credit.
So imagine what it must be like for a 21-year-old to fend off the mailbox pitches for plastic, especially if he's not mature enough yet to handle credit and is already prone to making unwise choices with money. Nothing like an invitation for a credit card-fueled buying binge.
That's the idea behind OptOutPrescreen.com, a website operated by four of the major credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, TransUnion, Experian and Innovis.
Supported by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Federal Trade Commission, the service can be accessed either online at http://www.optoutprescreen.com or by calling 1-888-567-8688.
Either way, the process takes about five minutes to complete. OptOutPrescreen requires some personal data: your first and last name, your mailing address and your Social Security number, which it encrypts for security.
Consumers have two choices -- free, of course -- if they want to have their name removed from marketing lists sold by the credit reporting agencies to credit card companies. You can choose to opt out for five years or permanently.
If you decide to opt out permanently, you're also required to sign and return an opt-out form.
Keep in mind that at any time you can also opt in to receive offers again.
Will opting out impact your credit score or other aspects of your finances? The answer is no, according to the credit rating agencies. Nor will removing your name from solicitations affect your future ability to apply for and receive plastic.
While OptOutPrescreen is the best way to limit credit card solicitations, it does not stop them all, said Jody Farmer, a vice president at CreditCards.com, a consumer-oriented website.
For example, your 20-something student could still get solicitations from his bank trying to promote a new card, or because he's enrolled in an airline frequent-flier program or a retailer's rewards program.
There are some other resources that could help stem the tide of credit card solicitations. The Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service allows consumers to opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from members of the association for five years.
The association also allows parents, for example, to register as caretakers to stop junk mail from going to a dependent. Some banks and marketers will honor this request even though they aren't DMA members and are under no legal obligation to do so, the association said. Go to http://www.dmachoice.org.
In some serious situations, perhaps where a young adult's spending on his credit card is out of control, a credit freeze is the answer, Farmer said.
There's one more step to take before pulling the plug on credit card offers -- a tough-love discussion with your son or daughter about the potential risks and rewards of using plastic.
Talk about the impact of late fees and interest charges on their bank account, weighted against the convenience factor of paying with plastic and accumulating rewards points for travel and merchandise. The opt-out system is certainly an easy way out, but it's not the only way to address poor credit card habits.
(Questions, comments, column ideas? Send an e-mail to srosen(AT)kcstar.com or write to him at The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.)
(c) 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.