Stop Junk Mail and Telemarketers
Just Say No
- Credit Bureaus Opt-Out Line
Call 888-567-8688 (888-5-OPT-OUT) from your home telephone (so it can be checked against an address database) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com to stop preapproved credit card and insurance offers from reaching you by mail or phone.
- Do Not Call List
If you haven't done so already, by all means, register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry, maintained by the Federal Trade Commission. Once you have registered your telephone numbers at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222, most telemarketers are barred from calling you.
- List Brokers
Pooling information gleaned from phone books, public records and other sources, these companies prepare and sell mailing lists to businesses. To remove yourself from all of their lists, you'll have to contact each one individually. (Preprinted mailing labels to ease the task are available at www.fightidentity theft.com/junkmail_labels.html.) Details on reaching the four largest list brokers appear below.
- Direct Marketing Association
The DMA is a trade group whose 5,200 member companies use the telephone, mail and the Internet to pitch their products directly to consumers, bypassing such intermediaries as traditional bricks-and-mortar retail outlets. The DMA offers half a dozen ways for you to opt out of receiving solicitations from its members.
The opt-out contacts listed above primarily deal with unsolicited mail and telephone calls from companies you have nothing to do with. But what about stopping the spread of your personal information from companies with which you already do business?
How to Protect Yourself
Once a year, financial institutions are required to inform their customers how they use their personal information, and what opt-out rights those customers have.
These notices sometimes provide a mailing address (or, more rarely, a phone number or a website address) that permits customers to stop their financial institutions from sharing their personal information with unaffiliated third parties. This is that rare offer you truly should not refuse: Taking them up on it may halt junk mail that originates from totally unsuspected sources. Even if you don't take this step, you can always stop the spread of your personal information the good old-fashioned way: Contact your bank, credit-card issuer or insurer and inform them you are opting out of sharing.
When you buy a new toaster, it's easy to get burned long before the bread pops up. The source? The warranty card included in the packaging.
"Warranty cards are primarily used by the product's manufacturer to profile you," explains California identity theft attorney Mari Frank. "They will then sell that information to others, who in turn send you mailings for their own products and services. That's why warranty cards so often ask you for your household income, how many kids you have, what your hobbies and interests are."
How to Protect Yourself
Provided you keep the receipt, a product is under warranty for the designated period whether you return the warranty card or not. If you unwisely choose to "register" your purchase with the manufacturer, submit the warranty card bearing nothing more than your name, address and date of purchase. (If required, enclose a copy of your receipt.) In the same mailing, specify that your personal information is not to be distributed to others.
The U.S. Postal Service delivers—but don't expect it to deliver you from the mountains of junk mail it dumps on your doorstep. Direct marketing mailings—which have increased by some 5 billion pieces since the National Do Not Call Registry went into effect in October 2003—generate billions of dollars in revenue for the USPS. Maybe that's why some seemingly obvious steps for refusing these mailings don't really work. For instance:
Just Say No
- Writing "return to sender" or "refused" on the envelopes of unsolicited letters and placing them in your outgoing mail will not remove you from the sender's distribution list. The USPS does not forward third-class bulk mail; postal regulations require that it be thrown away instead.
- Placing unsolicited mail in a return envelope with postage due is another futile attempt to stop future mailings. In all likelihood, the USPS will simply return the envelope to you for the correct postage. If you omit your return address and the Post Office is unable to return it to the sender, the envelope will go to the USPS's mail recovery center.
Perhaps hoping to upgrade its image as the nation's leading source of shredder fodder, the Direct Marketing Association has graciously devised all manner of means by which you can just say no. Try one of these:
Stop Receiving Mailings
Go to www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist and complete the online opt-out form. Then click the Register Online button. This is the fastest way of adding your name and address to the DMA's Mail Preference Service (essentially a "do-not-mail" list), but it costs $5, payable by credit card.
If you don't want to go online, send a postcard or letter including your name, address and signature (and a request to opt out) to:
Mail Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 643
Carmel, New York 10512
This option is also free of charge, but it is the slowest: A minimum of two months will be required before your name and address have been added to the MPS opt-out list.
Stop Telephone Solicitations
Visit www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offtelephone and complete the opt-out form you will find there. Here again there is a $5 charge to register online, or you can print out the form and mail it in at no charge. You can also send a letter or postcard with your name, address, telephone number (with area code), and signature to:
Telephone Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 1559
Carmel, New York 105120
Reduce E-Mail Solicitations
Visit www.dmaconsumers.org/consumers/optoutform_emps.shtml. To confirm your submission, the Direct Marketing Association will send an acknowledgment to each address you submit (up to three); you must reply to each one within 30 days in order for your registration to take effect.
Remove the Names of Deceased Loved Ones
Visit www.preference.the-dma.org/cgi/ddnc.php and complete the form you find there. There is a $1 charge to verify your credit card information.
They don't exactly make it easy for you, but if you send a written request to each list broker below, your tide of junk mail should eventually ebb.
Dun & Bradstreet
899 Eaton Avenue
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18025
R. L. Polk & Co./Name Deletion File
List Compilation Development
26955 Northwestern Highway
Southfield, Michigan 48034-4716
470 Chestnut Ridge Road
Woodcliff, New Jersey 07677
Consumer Advocate Hotline
Get more tips of Sid's tips on how to protect your credit.