Privacy is a red-hot issue for financial service providers. In an age when spam e-mail and identity theft are commonplace, consumers are wary about how banks and insurance companies are going to use their personal information-and in whose hands that information could land.My wife guards her privacy like a hungry Doberman guards his food dish. Our telephone has a caller ID contraption that displays the phone number of an incoming call. But to be on the super-safe side, my wife signed up for a "privacy manager" service that screens all incoming calls. If the system does not recognize the caller's phone number-such as a cell phone number or calls placed from a hotel or a pay phone-the caller is told to state their name and leave a message.

My wife signed up for privacy manager after receiving a telemarketing call on Easter Sunday. Now, all telemarketing calls are automatically sent to privacy manager, and guess what? No one is willing to jump through all the hoops to leave their pitch.

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