Stop Junk Mail
Junk mail might merely seem like a tiny daily irritant, but just stopping those few pieces of paper from getting into your mailbox can have many surprising benefits. Here are a few:
BENEFITS FOR ENVIRONMENT: This one is easy—less clutter in our homes and less trash in our landfills. On the flipside, eliminating your junk mail is equivalent to planting a tree every year!1 I’d recommend setting aside a day with your neighbors to stop your junk mail together and then helping each other plant a tree to celebrate your mailbox’s newfound freedom. On top of that, think of all the chemicals used to print the mail, along with all the planes and trucks needed to transport the lovely pieces of art to your house. Stopping your junk mail reduces the number of these contaminates entering our environment as well.
Benefits for your identity security: Pre-approved credit offers are an identity thief’s dream come true—they can snatch it from your mail box and fill it out for you, allowing them to obtain your information.
Benefits for your convenience: Have you ever opened your mailbox only to see a pile of unwanted catalogs and just thrown it out in disgust? Ever realized later that your utility bill was in there as well? Or maybe a letter from your grandmother? Well, it’s time to stop getting what frustrates you, and start reading what actually matters to you.
Cost: None to Low
You can contact various companies and take many preventative measures for free. Thanks to a very old Supreme Court decision, most direct mailers will heed any request to have your name taken off their mailing list.2 However, you may have to pay postage to mail certain mailers. You could also pay a fee if you hire a junk mail removal service to do it all for you.
Time and effort: Low to Medium
Reducing your junk mail is literally just a matter of contacting companies that send you junk mail and asking them to stop sending it to you. Make it fun—get some friends together, grab an organic beer, and end the junk once and for all ☺
Stop Junk Mail Guidelines
1. Stop the Most Common Junk Mailers: If you're like most people, the majority of your mail comes from a few major national direct mailers. The following websites will opt you out of the majority of junk mail lists.
2. Celebrate. You’ve Reduced 90% of your junk mail.
- DirectMail.com National Do Not Mail List: This is a third party organization that aggregates all the various bulk mail provider and opts out of them for you.
- Direct Marketing Association: This contains the largest national mailing list that companies use to send you junk mail, made up of 5,200 companies. Submitting a request with DMA alone should take care of a large majority of your junk mail. Registering online is free, but it expires after 5 years.
3. Rid the Remaining 10%. There are always a few remaining tough nuts to crack. The following resources should help.
Flyers and Advertising Supplements: Flyers and advertising supplements are usually addressed to “resident” or “occupant.” Even after your name is removed from the company's mailing list, you probably should also remind your postal carrier not to deliver the advertising flyers. If you still want coupons, those coupons can all be found online.
Mail Order Catalogs: Both the Direct Mail.com and Direct Marketing Association services allow you to opt out of catalogs. But in case you need it, you can use Abacus, the database used by nearly all product catalogs. Send an email to email@example.com with your name and mailing information.
Prizes and Sweepstakes: Contact the following major national sweepstakes mailers. Almost all of these have mailing lists that get sold or rented, so if you keep getting this kind of mail, you're probably still on some other mailing list. Save the mailing label and reply device, which probably have codes identifying the original company's mailing list that sold your information.
List Brokers: List brokers are companies that compile information from phone books and public records: tax files, birth certificates, real estate transactions and sell that information to companies so they can send you marketing material.
Write individually to each of the list brokers to request your name be removed from all their mailing and telemarketing lists. Preprinted mailing labels can be found here.
Charities and Professional Organizations: Charities or professional organizations can send you a great deal of mail, and even rent and exchange lists. You can usually find a toll-free customer service number on any material they send you that can be used to take you off their mailing list. Inform them that not only do you want to be taken off their list, but you want them to stop providing your contact information to other companies. If that doesn't work, try the mailing label or reply device technique as detailed in the prizes and sweepstakes section. Sometimes, donation forms for charities will offer a box for you to check if you don't want your information shared with third parties.3
- Metromail Corporation, List Maintenance, 901 West Bond, Lincoln, NE 68521
- R.L. Polk & Co. / Name Deletion File, List Compilation Development, 26955 Northwestern Highway, Southfield, MI 48034-4716
- Database America, Compilation Department, 470 Chestnut Ridge Road, Woodcliff, NJ 07677
- Info USA, Attn: Product Quality, PO Box 27347, Omaha, NE 68127
Magazines: Magazine companies will also sell the information you fill out on their subscription card to other companies. If you are already or plan to be subscribed to a magazine, write and mail to the magazine a note that you do not want your name and address rented, sold, or exchanged with third parties.
Financial Institutions: By law, financial institutions are required to send you an option to opt-out of their mailing lists, although these are usually packed in with a lot of other things and go easily unnoticed. Sometimes, they offer an opt-out for having your information shared with unaffiliated third parties. If they do, take that option. You can also call them anytime to opt-out, but this won't prevent them from sharing the information with third party affiliates.
Phone Books: Mailing list companies use phone books to find your name, address, and phone number. To avoid this, ask your phone company to have your number unlisted. If you have to pay a monthly fee to have it unlisted, you can instead ask the phone company to use a fake name in the listing or to only list your name and phone number. Also, make sure to ask to be removed from any street address directories as well.4
◦ DEX: 1-877-243-8339
◦ Yellow Book: 1-800-929-3556
◦ Verizon: 1-800-555-4833
DON’T try these techniques… People have tried certain techniques to send junk mail back to the sender, with limited results. If you've heard these tips before, be warned that they generally don't work.
4. Desperate? Pay someone. If you have a lot of junk mail and you really don't want to contact many different companies, consider using these services.
Writing “return to sender” and putting it back in the mailbox. Although first-class mail will be mailed back to the sender, this won't remove you from the sender's distribution list. Also, most bulk mail isn't first class, and USPS policy is to discard any returned third-class bulk mail in the trash.5
- Place junk mail in a return envelope with postage due. The USPS doesn't send any mail that has postage due, so they'll just return it to you for the correct postage or send it to the mail-recovery center. This will do nothing to prevent future junk mail. 6
5. Stop this from happening again. Now that you've stopped most of your junk mail, you probably want to prevent any more of your information getting into the hands of junk mailers. Here are a few places to look out for that you might not have known about:
41 Pounds: For $41, this service stops junk mail and catalogs for 5 years. A third of the fee is donated to an environmental or community organization of choice.
Private Citizen: For $10 a year, this service will stop junk mail from the most common mailers and list brokers.
Here’s to liberating your mailbox, good luck!
Warranty Cards: Many new products come with a warranty card, which ask you to register your product with the company by filling out your personal information on the warranty card. Don't fill out that card. Companies usually just sell that information to others, and a product will remain under warranty whether or not you actually return the warranty card, as long as you keep the receipt.7
Contests: Many contests that offer free prizes actually use it to gather personal information and send junk mail. To prevent that, avoid entering a contest that requires you to put down addresses or other contact information without any opt-out option for being put on their mailing list.8
Consumer Surveys: Consumer surveys can ask you to answer a few questions in exchange for free coupons or entry into sweepstakes. These can ask for very detailed information such as income, education, health, and product purchases. Since that information often gets sold to third parties, try to avoid responding to consumer surveys.
Catalogs: Whenever you buy something from a mail-order catalog, it's more likely that other companies will start to send you their catalogs, since they can establish that you are a potential customer. Whenever you order something in the mail, make a specific request in writing that the company not rent, sell, or trade your name and address.
Bills: Monthly bills can often come with an advertisement. If the company offers an online statement,9 sign up for it so you can cancel your bill by mail. If they don't, ask companies to e-mail you a statement. This also helps to prevent people from stealing any account information from your garbage!
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