Posted: March 29, 2013 at 4:10 a.m.

DEAR READERS: Here is an update on one of my recent columns about how to prevent unsolicited credit-card and insurance offers.

Many wrote saying they were concerned about some of the personal information being asked, especially a Social Security number anddate of birth. And rightly so - you want to be sure this private and important information is safe. Yes, it is safe for you to give it in thisinstance. First, the service to opt out of prescreen solicitations is offered by the major credit-reporting companies. The Federal Trade Commission recommends using this service to help stop this annoying mail.

Here is what you do. You can call (888) 567-8688 or go online to and register. The information you provide is only used to process this request. You have initiated the call or online request, so you can feel comfortable giving your identifying information. They, or anyone else, should not call you and ask for personal financial information! The main reason to ask for a Social Security number is that this number is how most services locate and file your information. There may be several Ted or Tara Thomases living in Texarkana, Texas!

However, if you are still a little leery about your Social Security number, you can opt out of giving it.

After dialing the phone number, you will be prompted to give your Social Security number. Do not say anything, and the recorded message will move on to the next prompt, for your date of birth. Don’t say anything, and you can move to the next prompt.

But if there are variations of your name (e.g., Mrs. Ted Thomas, Tara Thomas, T. Thomas or Tara T. Thomas), a Social Security number will cut through the confusion.

Give it a try and let me hear from you. How did the system work?

P.S.: You should see the many different ways my name is mangled on mailing lists! Sometimes I’ll use initials or my dog’s nickname just to see who sells the list!

DEAR HELOISE: A lot of doctor’s offices have websites, and many put patient forms on them that can be printed out before the appointment. This helps, especially if you are a new patient and are seeing a doctor for the first time. It saves a lot of time. My veterinary clinic even does this.

  • Still Learning, via e-mail Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or e-mail

MovieStyle, Pages 34 on 03/29/2013