You’ve probably had it happen once or twice: You open a new credit card or apply for insurance, and the next thing you know, there are daily unsolicited offers of even more credit – including opportunities to apply for a mortgage – hitting your inbox, arriving through snail mail and popping up as texts or calls on your phone.
What gives? Why does the whole world suddenly seem like it wants to offer you credit? Well, you’ve just experienced the effect of trigger leads. Here’s what you need to know about them.
What Are Trigger Leads?
When you apply for credit of any kind, lenders typically pull a credit report and score on you from one or more of the three main credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. In turn, these three companies generate daily “leads” to other companies – including mortgage lenders – of people who might be in the market for loans.
The logic is that anybody looking into their credit or experiencing certain life changes is more likely to be part of the marketing demographics these companies want to target. In other words, your action “triggers” lenders to reach out to you in hopes of soliciting your business – and you get inundated with new offers for things you may not want or need.
Since lenders don’t just buy their data from the credit bureaus alone, numerous other events in your life could also trigger the influx. Have you recently created a gift registry for a new baby? You’ll probably see all kinds of mail about college savings funds, bank accounts and mortgages.
Gone through a recent bankruptcy? Check your inbox for tons of “second chance” and “poor credit” offers for credit cards, auto loans and mortgage refinancing. Gotten married? Expect mortgage brokers to start texting or calling. All of those things put you squarely in the demographics of people that may be looking at real estate products and other forms of credit, so that’s why you’re targeted.
Why Are Trigger Leads Allowed?
Believe it or not, this practice of selling your information and generating trigger leads is not only legal under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), but it’s actually encouraged by both the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Both agencies see this as a way to encourage healthy competition among lenders and give consumers a clearer idea of their options. That ultimately helps keep interest rates and other lending terms lower. It also puts you in touch with companies that have tailor-made services that are right for your needs. But that’s not the only benefit of trigger leads. Consider some of the following.
Typically, companies that use trigger leads pre-screen potential customers before they send out their marketing materials (that’s why the majority of offers will say you’re “pre-qualified”). If you’re a little nervous about your credit, you can generally expect to be approved for the offers you receive, which can take a lot of anxiety out of the process.
Some of the offers you receive this way may be better than what you would get as a walk-in client somewhere or when you’re looking online. That’s because you’re already pre-screened and the company knows that you’re likely to qualify for their products.
You get timely solutions to your problems. Trigger leads allow professionals to reach out at the right time, offering immediate assistance and support. This can be particularly advantageous in scenarios such as when you need to refinance a mortgage or find suitable housing options when relocating after marriage or having a child.
So, trigger leads do have their advantages, especially if you’re actively thinking about mortgage products or other kinds of credit. The offers you get may help you comparison shop, sort good deals from bad ones and better understand what’s available.
What Can You Do About Trigger Leads if You Don’t Like Them?
When you’re actively looking into mortgages or other forms of credit, trigger leads can be useful – but what if you’re not really interested in any of the products they’re discussing?
A lot of people get overwhelmed by the influx of offers, and some feel like the whole thing is just an invasion of their privacy. The constant barrage of marketing efforts can end up being annoying, frustrating or even a bit upsetting.
In those situations, there are steps you can take that will either reduce or outright stop unwanted solicitations. Here are a few to consider:
- Add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry: This list is controlled by the FTC and is designed to stop unsolicited sales calls and text messages. You can register both your home phone (if you have one) and your cellular number. It can take up to 31 days for the calls to stop once you register, but you can also use that website to report scammers and any other unwanted solicitations after that point.
- Opt-out of all prescreened credit offers: If you don’t want to see the offers piling up in your mailbox and recycling bin, go to optoutprescreen.com and register. This website offers a centralized service and is a cooperative effort by Equifax, Experian, TransUnion and Innovis Data Solutions, Inc., to comply with consumer privacy regulations under the FCRA. You have a choice to opt-out for five years at a time or permanently. If you change your mind later, this is also the site you can visit to opt back in.
- Add a stronger spam filter to your email: Still getting unsolicited offers in your email? You can tweak your email settings with an anti-spam filter that will sort most marketing efforts straight into a file you don’t ever have to see.
- Learn to use temporary email generators: If you occasionally use discounts when you’re shopping online, you’re triggering more leads – but you can prevent businesses from getting your email by using a temporary email address generator for sales promotions. If a website wants you to sign up for their marketing materials to get a coupon, sites like 10MinuteMail and EmailOnDeck will help you out.
Do you want total autonomy to initiate contact yourself, or are you open to exploring the opportunities and services that use trigger leads?
Ultimately, you have to decide how comfortable you are with the use of your personal information for marketing purposes. Consider the balance between your privacy and the potential benefits of receiving targeted services that you actually need.