Junk Mail Menace

By Chelle Cordero

May 6, 2014 4 min read

According to statistics from 41pounds.org, most Americans receive approximately 41 pounds of unsolicited direct mail every year, nearly half of which is never opened. In addition to cluttering mailboxes, junk mail increases recycling costs, can lead to ID theft and wastes valuable time. 41pounds.org is a fee-based service to help you opt out of unwanted mailing lists.

Every time you respond to surveys, enter contests, sign up for freebies or even submit warranty registrations, your name and address is included in lists that are sold to other marketing companies. These lists can provide money-saving coupons, a heads-up on new and desired services and the convenience of shop-at-home catalogs. However, each credit card offer, life insurance pitch and shopping-preference survey can leave you vulnerable to identity theft and phony credit card charges. And when credit card companies send you complimentary checks to go with your credit card, you risk fraudulent purchases, of which you are liable.

Luckily, there are ways to reduce the unwanted junk mail, spam emails and intrusive phone calls. Many have already signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry. The majority of email offers have opt-out links to remove your name off of lists. Direct advertisements arriving in your mailbox may be subject to mandatory opt-out services if the companies mailing them are members of the Direct Marketing Association; send a postcard or letter to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 15012-0643 and include your complete name, address, ZIP code and a request to "activate the preference service." Registration is good for up to five years.

Whenever you do fill out survey forms, enter contests, sign up for a store mailing list or make a mail-order purchase, print next to your name and address the words "Do NOT sell my name." Individual companies who are not part of the Direct Marketing Association may honor your written request to remove your name from their mailing list, and it might be worth the effort. Unfortunately, if you do business with that company in the future, expect that your name to go back on the bulk mailing list, and there is no guarantee of compliance. Many people have started using "codes" such as a different middle initial on each form to pinpoint the offenders sell their names.

As noted above, there are paid services that will help remove your name from many direct mail campaigns. You can also contact a lot of the same companies yourself, though it might be time-consuming. Even after registering with the DMA Mail Preference Service, you will probably still continue to receive junk mail, albeit in a severely reduced fashion. Contact your local post office if you are receiving sexually oriented or otherwise offensive mail and ask for assistance. You could be receiving mail addressed to a previous tenant or homeowner. Contact that mailing company directly and ask to have the names separated. Receiving mail addressed to deceased relatives is not only a nuisance but also can be the cause of emotional stress. Contact the Direct Marketing Association online at http://www.ims-dm.com/cgi/ddnc.php to register the name of the deceased and have it removed from many commercial mailing lists.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that all junk mail will be eliminated. Be sure to shred or tear up any mail that might include personal info and put the torn paper into your recycle bins. To recycle the remaining junk mail, use it for a quick notepad or scratch paper for kids.

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