Stop Junk Mail and Telemarketing

Take back control of mail and phone solicitations

Imagine this scenario: You've just gotten home from work. You pick up the mail from the mailbox, take it inside, and sit down to sort through it. A few minutes later, half of it is in the recycling, half is in the shredder ... and you're left with one sad, lonely-looking envelope sitting on the table. And it's probably a bill.

The junk-mail campaign craze is aggravating not only because it's a complete waste of paper—even if you're an avid recycler—but also because it's not the only way solicitors can snag a chunk of your time. How many occasions have there been when you picked up the phone and had someone ask if you or your non-existent spouse was home to make a decision on a loan you're not even considering?

Most of us would like the non-stop bombardment of telephone and mail solicitations to end, but don't know what to do. Below are some of the ways you can prevent and opt-out of unwanted mail and phone calls.

How do solicitors get my phone number and address?

There are many ways that direct marketing companies obtain access to records about you. Let's say you order an item from a catalog, purchase another item online, and give money to a charity. In all three cases, the most pertinent parts of the information you give these places—such as your name, address, phone number, and item purchased—are put into a database used for direct marketing purposes. Same goes with buying a car, house, or any other type of large investment as well as filling out product registration forms, participating in surveys, or signing up for a new credit card.

What can I do to prevent this from happening?

Unfortunately, in this day and age, almost all organizations will sell or trade your name and address, and there's not too much to be done to prevent it from happening before you can figure out which companies are doing it. There are, however, a couple of good techniques you can use to ensure fewer calls and less junk mail:

Junk Mail—Credit card companies are the worst when it comes to selling consumer's names and information. Call your credit company and ask them to refrain from doing this.

If you fill out a survey or warranty card or buy a product, write, "Please don't sell or trade my name and address," and there's a good chance this will be tagged or marked in the company's database.

Telemarketing—Instead of just hanging up when you realize the call is a sales call, or saying "no, thanks," tell them specifically "please put my number on your do-not-call list." Just saying "stop calling," or "take me off the list" will not work because per FCC requirements, they're only forced to take you off their list if you use this or a very similar sentence.

Where to write/call to stop unwanted telephone solicitations

The easiest, cheapest way to avoid telemarketing calls is to register with the government's National Do Not Call Registry. It's free, and you can either register at www.donotcall.gov, or you can call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you would like to register. Your number stays in the system for at least five years (unless it is disconnected or you remove it from the registry) and within three months you should be getting fewer calls.

There are a handful of independent companies out there who will provide you with the great "service" of putting your name on a private list for a yearly fee ranging from $10-30 depending on whether you want them to help stop mail, phone, or both solicitations. "Private Citizen" (www.privatecitizen.com) is one such organization. However, it's likely that most would much rather toss a few letters and advertisements in the recycling or hang up the phone than pay an annual fee.

You may also want to write to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to request your name be removed from many national companies for at least five years. The letter should be addressed to:

Telephone Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014

Where to write/call to stop unwanted mail solicitations

The majority of junk mail you receive is probably pre-approved credit offers. There is a toll-free number you can call to "opt-out" of getting these for two years, offered by the credit bureaus. The number is 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688), or you can visit their website at www.optoutprescreen.com. You'll have to provide some personal information like your social security number, but it's completely confidential and is only used to process your request.

There are three major credit bureaus that you can also contact to notify them that you do not wish to be solicited by mail. Write a letter stating this and send it to each company listed below:

Equifax, Inc.
Options
PO Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123

Experian
Consumer Opt-Out
701 Experian Parkway
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion
Name Removal Option
P.O. Box 505
Woodlyn, PA 19094

As with stopping telemarketing, you can also write to the DMA about junk mail. Send your letter to:

Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512

These few methods of combating the barrage of solicitations might not completely rid you of the problem, but they will certainly help to keep it under control, and they're not too time-consuming or involved. Just know that, while there will always be those extremely persistent marketers, you're still in charge of your time.


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