Junk mail sucks. It wastes your time and money, and it wastes valuable resources. It can also be used to steal your identity. Unfortunately, there is no built-in spam filter for mailboxes like there is in your e-mail account. However, there are a few good ways to stop the mail at its source. These tips can help you stop receiving pre-screened offers for credit and insurance, and get your name removed from catalog mailing lists.
Just keep in mind that companies you already do business with will still be able to send you offers for credit, insurance, and catalogs. These tips will stop the bulk of new unsolicited mailings, but won’t stop everything. You may need to individually contact organizations you already do business with.
Stop Receiving Prescreened Offers for Credit Cards and Insurance
The best way to stop the junk mail is to call the official hotline to opt out of pre-approved credit card offers (it will also stop firm offers for insurance). The number is 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). This hotline will send your information to the main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, Innovis, TransUnion). You will need to provide your Social Security Number and other personal information, but don’t worry, this site is legitimate. OptOutPrescreen.com is endorsed by the Federal Trade Commission.
You can also opt out at the official Consumer Credit Reporting Industry website – OptOutPrescreen.com. Both options are free.
After collecting you information, the bureau will send you a form to sign and return. Without signing the form, calling the number will remove your name from the list for 5 years. By signing the form, you remove it permanently.
Does it work? Yes! I was getting approximately 10 pieces of junk mail per week, and am now down to about 1 piece. Doing this only stops firm offers for credit and insurance, not offers of “you might be eligible for…” So it might not stop everything.
As a side note, when I get those other solicitations from companies I am not currently doing business with, I take the pre-paid return envelope and return it to them stuffed full of any scrap of paper I can find (that doesn’t have my personal info)! I figure I should support the US Postal System. 🙂
Opt Out of Unsolicited Commercial Mail
You can manually opt out of each catalog or other mailing by contacting companies directly, but that usually involves mailing in a form or making a phone call and waiting through 20 minutes of 80’s soft rock. No one wants to repeat that process more than once. Fortunately, there are a few companies ready to help you out.
Direct Marketing Association. The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service from many national companies for three years. DMA charges a $1 fee to register for the service, but that is a small price to pay. When you register, your name will be put on a “delete” file and made available to direct-mail marketers. However, your registration will not stop mailings from organizations that do not use the DMA’s Mail Preference Service. To register with DMA’s Mail Preference Service, go to http://www.dmachoice.org. You can also opt out of commercial e-mails with the DMA Email Preference Service. Your online request will be effective for three years. It can take up to 90 days to take affect.
If you want to stop mail from being sent to a deceased individual, you’ll need to register for the Deceased Do Not Contact List. To prevent direct mail from being sent to a person in your care, you must register for the Do Not Contact for Caregivers List.
Catalog Choice. Catalog Choice is another website where you can opt out of paper catalog mailings. Catalog Choice is free, and it can take at least twelve weeks to process your request.
Pay Options to Stop Junk Mail
The options above should stop most of the junk mail you receive, and I would recommend trying them for a few months before spending any money. However, if those options don’t stop it all, or you wish to try something else, the following options may work for you.
Tonic Mailstopper (formerly Green Dimes). Tonic Mailstopper charges $20 per year to remove you from junk e-mail and catalog lists, including over 1,000 different merchants. The folks at Mailstopper plant 5 trees for each new customer they bring on.
41pounds.org. According to 41pounds.org, the average American receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year. That is a lot of paper and a lot of waste! 41pounds.org offers to stop junk mail to your home for the price of $41 per year. 41pounds.org donates more than 1/3 of your fee to the environmental or community organization of your choice (from a wide selection on their website).
These Services Won’t Stop All Catalogs, Junk Mail or Phone Books.
These services are great, but they wont stop all mail you consider to be junk. They will stop most mailings, but you may begin receiving unwanted mail again if you have recently done business with a company and gave them your address. If this is the case, you will need to contact these merchants individually. Here are some tips to opt-out to receiving phone books.
Charities Play by Different Rules
I’m all about supporting charities, but many of them send enormous amounts of solicitations to you once you send in an initial donation. I know I’ve had a couple charities spend more money requesting additional donations from me than the original amount I gave. If you want to stop receiving mail or phone calls from them, then you need to understand that they play by a different set of rules compared to commercial outlets. Here are 7 tips for reducing unwanted mail and phone appeals from the American Institute for Philanthropy.
Junk Mail Can Lead to Identity Theft
Unsolicited junk mail and preapproved credit card offers and other preapproved loans can be a gateway to identity theft if it falls into the wrong hands. Some thieves go so far as to steal unopened mail in the atempt of diverting preapproved credit card and loan offers, sign up under your name and have the mail delivered elsewhere.
Monitor your credit reports. You can protect yourself by getting a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or using a credit monitoring service such as GoFreeCredit to monitor your credit scores and reports and other financial accounts. You can try receive a 30 day trial to Equifax 3-in-1 Monitoring with GoFreeCredit.
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