Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Reduce Junk Mail

You're trying to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but every day your mailbox is full of paper, most of it junk. Marketers call it "direct mail," but all that unwanted mail is clogging your mailbox, cluttering your home, choking the environment, and threatening the safety of your identity. Although you can't escape mail altogether, here are some tips on how to reduce the junk.

1. Remove your name from Direct Marketing Association (DMA) mailing lists. Go to and click on "Remove My Name From Those Lists." They will send you a verification email, and they will need a credit card (which will not be charged) for identity verification. You can also verify by mail for a $1 charge. DMA allows you to remove yourself from all lists, or select catalogs and companies individually.

2. Remove your name from pre-screened credit offers. To reduce all of those credit card offers, go to or call 1-888-5-Opt-Out (1-888-567-8688). This is a free service offered by the major credit bureaus. You can opt-out electronically for five years, or forever by mail.

3. Try to buy over the phone instead of online. At the end of the call, ask the sales representative not to send you any catalogs, to keep you off of their mailing list, and not to sell or trade your name. Most reputable stores have codes in their computer systems for these requests. Sign up for coupons by email instead, if you prefer.

4. When you buy something online, read the terms of agreement and privacy policy. I know, they're really long and boring, but they may have insights into what you can do to keep your name off of mailing lists. Many online order forms have checkboxes to opt-in to their mailing lists. Often the checkbox is already checked, and you have to know to uncheck it if you want to be
excluded from their list.

5. If all else fails, call the company. When you get unwanted junk mail, put it in a pile or envelope labeled "Remove from Lists." Set aside an hour a month to call them and ask them not to send you any more mail and not to sell or trade your name. Mark the date you called on the mail, and refer back to it if you receive a lot more mail from them. Remember, large mailings with your name may already be in process when you call, so it can take up to two months for you to stop receiving mail from companies.

Major life changes like moving or name changes open you up for more junk mail, because it changes the basic information registered with these agencies. If you move or change your name, remember to re-register.