Monday, November 24, 2008

How to Stop Junk Mail to your Mailbox

Oh, I am really tired from unwanted paper advertising posters and credit card offers that go directly to paper recycle bin, from spam email cluttering all email addresses, from unwanted phone calls from telemarketers. I guess most people do, since the search item stop junk mail appeared on top of the Google hot searches tomorrow. In this post, we will discuss the ways on how to stop, or at least decrease amount of the paper mail you are getting every day.

There are several companies online, which will offer you assisting hands in helping to reduce the paper waste stream to your house. But, there are some steps that you definitely can do yourselves without spending money.

Using Online Assistants

Among online assistants are:

- GreenDimes offers a free basic service, or you can apply the $20 one-time fee for more elaborated assistance. GreenDimes walks you through some easy steps that will reduce unsolicited mail, and also lets you decline catalogs. Each time you receive an unwanted catalog, you go to GreenDimes and type the name of the catalog in. GreenDimes takes care of removing you from that catalog’s mailing list.

- ProQuo is a free junk-mail reduction service. In the future, they intend to make money when consumers opt-in to request offers (like credit card offers); ProQuo will make money from those advertisers. It lets you stop many services with just a couple mouse clicks per service, but for about 50% of the marketers (maybe 10-15 of them) you have to print and send a letter or leave to an external website to complete a form. It’s still better than nothing though, because even if you’re lazy you can opt out of a lot of junk mail with just your mouse for free. Overall, the service is free, easy, and helps you opt out of a wide variety of lists.

- Catalog Choice is a site solely for opting out of catalogs. It doesn’t tackle things like credit card offers, PennySaver, or list brokers, but the site is clean with a really nice user interface.

- charges $41 for five years of service. The name comes from the fact that they claim to block 41 pounds of junk mail per year for you. Now, they are offering their membership as creative gift.

General Guidelines

Your name, address, and buying habits are a commodity that is regularly sold & traded on the open market. These days, organizations you deal with virtually all sell your name unless you specifically ask them to stop. Here are some general techniques:

* Whenever you donate money, order a product or service, or fill out a warranty card, write in large letters, "Please do not sell my name or address". Most organizations will properly mark your name in the computer.

* Product warranty cards are often used to collection information on your habits and income, for the sole purpose of targeting direct mail. They are not required in most situations - avoid sending them.

* On the telephone, ask "Please mark my account so that my name is not traded or sold to other companies".

* Your credit card company probably sells your name the most often -- keep reading for techniques to stop it.

* "Contests" where you fill in a little entry blank are almost always fishing expeditions for names. If you fill one out at a football game, for example, expect to get a catalog of football merchandise within a few months. Avoid these if you don’t want the mail.

* Select a false middle name or initial for each charity or business you deal with. Keep track of which letter goes with which organization. You can also select a false road designator, "avenue, place, circle, street, highway, parkway, etc." This step can be very revealing. Some guides recommend changing the spelling of your name, but this can lead to duplicate mailings.

Stop unwanted paper mail

* Direct Marketing Association

Start by sending a postcard or letter to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 15012-0643 Include your complete name, address, zip code and a request to "activate the preference service". For up to five years, this will stop mail from all member organizations that you have not specifically ordered products from.

The Direct Marketing Association estimates that listing with their mail preference service will stop 75% of all national mailings. They process 50,000 requests a month and requests are kept active for five years. If you fill out the post office change of address form, the DMA will track the new address (you’ll get a few months of mailings to the new address before they catch up to you). It can take up to six months for your request to be fully processed. You can also opt-out online, but they charge $5. The best way is to fill out their online form, then mail them a printout. Note that mail addressed to “resident” or “occupant” cannot be stopped through the DMA.

* OptOutPrescreen

You can also go to, which can enable you to remove your name from lists that mortgage, credit card and insurance companies use to mail you offers and solicitations. It’s a centralized website run by the four major credit bureaus in the United States: Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion.

Most businesses check with one or more of these companies before accepting your credit card or granting you credit for a long-term purchase. They are also a huge source of names and addresses for credit card, mortgage and insurance companies that routinely send junk mail to attract new customers and solicit new business. But there’s a way to fight back. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit bureaus to delete your name from their rented lists if you make the request.

* First class mail return

Cross out the address and bar code, circle the first class postage and write "refused: return to sender". Drop in any mail box, it will be returned to the sender.

* Bulk mail return

The post office throws away bulk mail it can’t deliver, so returning it does no good. Bulk mail is the hardest to deal with because the USPS actively provides addresses, support and encouragement to mailers. However, if "address correction requested" is written on the label: circle "address correction requested" and treat like first class mail.

* Sexually Oriented Advertising (SOA)

The only help you’ll get from the Post Office in controlling junk mail is for explicit stuff. Fill out USPS forms 1500 if you wish this type of mail to stop. You define what you find to be explicit -- if that’s an automobile parts catalog the post office won’t disagree with you.

* Credit offers

The major credit agencies all sell aggregate credit information any bidder. Direct mail and credit companies generate mail based on demographics including zip code, income band and credit payment patterns. Stopping this is easy, you just need your address, former address within two years, and social security number. One call does it all for agencies Equifax, Trans Union, Experian and Innovis. Dial 1-888-5 OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688) 24 hours a day.

You can also contact each company separately.

Write to Trans Union, Trans Union Corporation’s Name Removal Option, P.O. Box 505 Woodlyn PA 19094 (1-888-5OPTOUT or (1-888-567 8688)

Trans Union’s phone system records your opt-out details, which they may share with the following two companies.

Write to Equifax, PO Box 105873, Atlanta GA 30348 Equifax’s brochureware boasts it ability to locate ``hard-to-find consumers’’ and its ``powerful analytical tools that predict consumer behavior such as who is most likely to pay -- and when.’’ Knowledge is power, and knowledge about you is power over you. Privacy advocates objected when Equifax was awarded a privacy seal by BBBOnline.

Write to Experian, Consumer Opt Out, 701 Experian Parkway, Allen, TX 75013 (1-800-353-0809) (formerly a division of TRW, but since 1996 owned, along with Metromail, by Great Universal Stores Plc of Nottingham, UK). Experian seem to have a demanding procedure whereby they deign to let you off their system for two years, unless you fill out one of their forms or call 1-800-353-0809 (option 3), in which case they will abstain from making money selling financial information about you for a whole five years. Note that of all the names sold for pre-approved credit offers, nearly half were produced by Experian.

Write to Innovis, Innovis Consumer Assistance, P.O. Box 725, Columbus, OH 43216-0725 (1-800-540-2505). Note that Innovis doesn’t have to comply with the FCRA laws in the same way the other "big 3" credit agencies do, acting as a sort of final clearinghouse for consumer credit information.

* Catalogs

Most unwanted catalogs distribution is performed through Abacus Catalog Alliance. You can opt-out permanently from their distribution lists, stopping catalog mailings from association members. Email with your full name and current address. If you changed your address over the past six months, include your previous address as well. You can also write to the following address:Abacus Cooperative Databases, P.O. Box 1478, Broomfield, CO 80038, phone: 303-410-5100

You can also use the following ways of opting-out from the catalogs distribution:

- Call the company’s 800- number and have the label handy.
- Write your instructions on the mailing label and fax it to the company. Mark "ATTN: customer service".
- Tear off the label, write your instructions on it, and enclose in the postage-paid ordering envelope. Mark envelope "ATTN: customer service". This method is the least effective.

* Sweepstakes

Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes: You can get the Clearinghouse to stop clogging your mailbox by contacting customer service at 1-800-645-9242 (8:30 am to 8:30 EST), sending a fax to 1-800-453-0272, mailing to 101 Channel Drive, Port Washington, NY 11050, or you can send email to PCH will remove any number of names from a specific address, but you have to list each name exactly and insist nicely.

American Family Sweepstakes: Ed McMahon and Dick Clark will stop telling you "You have definitely won 11 million dollars" if you call them at 1-800-237-2400. AFP is a division of Time-Warner.

* Local business & supermarket fliers

All mailings must be identified, by postal regulations. Each lose-leaf bundle of fliers, by postal regulations, must be delivered at the same time as an address card. Locate this address card; the cards usually have an advertisement and a photograph of a missing child. You may need to call directory assistance to get the phone number of the sender. Specific senders are:

- ADVO (Mail comes with pictures of missing children). Call 1-860-285-6100 to get off the list. You may have to send a postcard to "ADVO Consumer Assistance, POB 249, Windsor CT 06095-4176".
- Val-Pak Coupons: click the link and copy your mailing label.
- Carol Wright Call 1-800-67-TARGET to get off the list.
- Opt Out. Send a letter with all the variations of your name and address asking to suppress your name from their lists. They are a large provider of marketing lists. Address: InfoUSA, Attn: Consumer Requests, 1020 E. 1st St., Papillion, NE 68046, phone: 888-633-4402.

Most senders are professional companies which will handle your request politely. "ADVO Mailbox Values" and "Harte Hanks Potpourri" are the most common of these mailers. Your local supermarket’s monthly coupon books may be handled by these companies, so be sure to specify if you want to continue to receive those. Your letter carrier is accustomed to giving each house a bundle, so you may also need to inform him or her of your action separately. The post office is prohibited by law from delivering unaddressed mail, so you should have little trouble convincing the carrier.

* Unwanted phone books

Even though phone books are recycled in many communities, more than 660,000 tons still end up in the trash every year. This waste could be stemmed by first eliminating the delivery of unsolicited or unwanted phone books. Call the numbers below to remove your address from phone book delivery lists:

- DEX: 1-877-243-8339
- Yellow Book: 1-800-929-3556
- Verizon: 1-800-555-4833

* List Brokers

Pooling information effortlessly gleaned from phone books, public records-including real-estate transactions, tax files, and birth certificates-and other sources, these companies prepare and sell mailing lists to all kinds of businesses. Write to each listed below, requesting that your name be removed from all of their mailing and telemarketing lists. Preprinted mailing labels to ease the task are available at

Metromail Corporation
List Maintenance
901 West Bond
Lincoln, Nebraska 68521

R.L. Polk & Co. / Name Deletion File
List Compilation Development
26955 Northwestern Highway
Southfield, Michigan 48034-4716

Database America
Compilation Department
470 Chestnut Ridge Road
Woodcliff, New Jersey 07677

Acxiom U.S.
To request an opt-out form be mailed to you, call 877-774-2094 or complete the request at Acxiom U.S’s website. You will then have to fill out another form and mail it back as well.

And remember that in most cases, we are giving away our information voluntary, signing up for the promotions and sweepstakes, filling the warranty registrations, etc. These breaches should be minimized by keeping the personal information as private as possible.

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