Junk mail is relentless. For every piece of mail worth keeping, it seems there are 10 that aren’t. But there are ways to stop, or at least slow, the flood of junk filling your mailbox. Here’s how.
Annoying and potentially damaging
Advertising mail serves a useful purpose by putting marketing messages into the hands of targeted prospects, helping (mostly local) businesses grow. But some risky possibilities accompany those unsolicited offers.
Criminals use fraudulent solicitations to commit identity theft. And even if you fill out a legitimate application for a credit card offer and mail it in, the application can get lost in the mail, or thieves can steal it from your mailbox to acquire sensitive information. In addition, important statements and notices can get mixed in with the junk mail you reflexively discard.
Statistics show that 44 percent of junk mail gets tossed, but only half of that is recycled.
The two-step junk mail turn-off
The first step to stemming the flow of junk mail is to place your name on a “do not mail” list with the Direct Marketing Association at www.dmachoice.org. Most direct mailers subscribe to the DMA to precisely target potential customers. DMA classifies direct mail into four categories: credit card offers, catalogs, magazine solicitations and everything else, such as bank offers, nonprofit donation solicitations, and retail promotions. By going online, you can issue a blanket removal of your name and address from these mailings or choose individual companies. Most companies will honor your request, as they don’t want to waste money sending mail to people they know will trash it. It may take two or three months to see the flow thin out, since some mailings may already be scheduled. There is a small $2 fee for this service. DMA also offers an informative Q&A page at http://www.dmaconsumers.org/offmailinglist.html.
The second step to clearing out your mailbox is to specifically target credit card solicitations, the biggest category of junk mail. Go to https://www.optoutprescreen.com or call 888-567-8688 for a single-stop location to shut down mailings from credit card companies as well as mortgage and insurance companies. The four credit-reporting firms — Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, and Innovis — operate this site.
Identity theft costs the average victim over $1,400 and has a total impact of about $15 billion annually. The U.S. mail is the biggest non-technical means of identity theft. Criminals either steal your mail or reroute it by filing a change of address card in your name. Submitting a credit card application by mail can be risky, so it’s best to go online to apply for a credit card. And shred the credit card applications that manage to reach you.
- Switch to paperless billing for all of your vendors: credit cards, utilities, your mortgage company, banks and any other company with whom you regularly transact business.
- Notify your credit card companies and other entities you do business with to put you on their “do not promote” list.
- Ask charities you support to send you a single fundraising mailing per year.