Friday, August 13, 2021

Reduce Junk Mail and Catalogs - Protect Yourself and Save Trees!

Does your weekly mail delivery include a pile of catalogs, junk mail and advertisements which go directly into your recycling bin?  My husband and I frequently receive catalogs which we never requested and which must have cost a fortune to publish.  It seems like such a waste for someone to print, mail, and deliver these items, only to have them end up unread, in the trash.  

We also receive unsolicited credit card offers, and promotions from hotels, investment companies, Medicare supplements and similar mailings.  While it may seem harmless to simply throw these things away, someone checking our trash could easily learn our name, address, that we are retired, and that we are considered good potential clients by investment companies.  If you want to make sure this type of information is kept private, your best solution is to purchase a home paper shredder (Ad) to destroy anything which comes to your home which could provide the wrong person with too much information about you.  In particular, you will want to destroy credit card offers. However, it may be too much work to shred larger items, such as catalogs.  In those cases, it might be better to stop them from coming in the first place.

Recently, I learned there are a few easy steps we can all take which may not totally eliminate these mailings, but could substantially reduce them.   Hopefully, after cutting down on our junk mail, it will be one less thing we have to deal with each day.  Below are some recommendations from experts:

Dealing with Catalogs and Junk Mail

DMAChoice.org - This is a site which will let you remove your name and address from many catalog lists.  You have to register an account and pay a $2 processing fee.  In return, they will unsubscribe you from entire categories of mail, which include catalogs and advertisements.  You can also unsubscribe only from the particular catalogs you do not want to receive.

Catalogchoice.org - This site is free and helps you unsubscribe from catalogs, but only one at a time.  In addition, it will not unsubscribe you from catalogs from businesses you have dealt with in the past as a customer.  They will only remove you from the prospect lists of companies you have not used in the past.  If you have been a customer of a company and want to unsubscribe from their catalog, you will have to visit their website to unsubscribe. 

Catalogchoice.org - In addition to reducing the number of catalogs you receive, this company will also offer a way to reduce your general junk mail.  You can use their free service, which will send opt-out requests to individual companies which are already marketing to you.  For a $20 "donation" they also have a premium unlisting service which will remove your name from data brokers who sell your contact information to marketers. 

It is unclear whether using the above services is a permanent solution, or if you will have to update your requests periodically.

Sweepstakes Lists

The two major companies which send out sweepstakes to virtually everyone in the country are Publishers Clearinghouse and Readers Digest.  You can remove yourself from these contests using the contact information below:

Publisher's Clearinghouse:  800-645-9242 or privacychoices@pchmail.com

Reader's Digest: 800-310-6261

If you still want to enter those contests, you can participate online, at your leisure, without the need to pour through thick packets of material and mail back an entry.  

Credit Card Offers

Credit card offers are a particularly dangerous type of junk mail.  Someone could potentially steal the applications from your mailbox and submit them, with an address change.  This could create a false identity which might ruin your credit and take you months or years to correct.  

Unfortunately, the major consumer credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, plus another company called Innovis, are the ones who maintain the mailing lists which are used by credit card and insurance companies to send you junk mail.  Fortunately, you can call one phone number to have your name and address removed from these mailing lists.  It is listed below 

Opt Out of credit card offers and insurance company mail at:

1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688)

Or, go online at:  optoutprescreen.com

Until you have successfully opted out of the credit card offers, make sure you use a home shredder (Ad) to destroy any offers which are sent to your home.  There are many choices and price ranges available. You do not want to simply toss credit card offers in the trash, without shredding them first. 

Stop Marketers from Sharing Your Name

Did you know that when you make a purchase, enter a contest, subscribe to a magazine, mail in a warranty card, or give your name and address to a company for any reason, you will be put on a mailing list which can be shared or sold to other companies?  

The best way to protect yourself is to be proactive anytime you mail in a warranty card (which is not usually necessary).  Whenever you give a business your name, write these words next to it:  "Do Not Rent or Sell my Name" or "No Mailing Lists."

Unsubscribe from Junk Emails

Another way to protect yourself from unwanted attention from companies is to go to the bottom of unwanted emails and click "unsubscribe."  It will reduce the number of junk emails you get, which could also reduce any unwanted attention from companies.  Another option is to just have anything from that company sent to the Spam file in your email.  

While taking these actions will not completely eliminate all junk mail, especially from local businesses and vendors, it could substantially reduce the amount of mail coming to your home. In addition, by eliminating unwanted catalogues and frequent mailings, you may also save a few trees!

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Photo credits:  Pixabay - cattu

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