Unwanted Junk Mail


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The official post office name for it is standard mail. For a time, they called it Bulk Business Mail or BBM for short. What do we know it as? Junkmail. As with all solid waste issues, we need to first work on reducing the amount of waste, in this case unwanted mail, before we worry about recycling. You won’t be able to eliminate all the junkmail coming to your address, but you can let some of the largest address brokers know that you no longer want to be on their lists.

After using this brochure to eliminate as much unwanted mail as possible, remember to recycle all of the junkmail that you do receive.

Many Sources, One Goal

Address lists are compiled by different companies for a number of reasons. Companies that buy, sell and maintain mailing lists are called mailing list brokers. Many list brokers are members of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), a trade association for direct–marketers. The DMA will place your name on a delete list which its members may subscribe to.

Another source of address lists are credit bureaus, and mortgage and credit card companies. To avoid frequent offers for new forms of credit, you must let your mortgage company and credit bureaus know that you do not wish to receive mail solicitations.

Warranty cards are a way for companies to generate lists that they can sell to other companies. In almost every case, you do not need to fill out the warranty card for the product to be covered by the warranty. You do need to fill out this card to be notified if there is a defect with the product or in the case of computer software, to be eligible for the product upgrades.

Tell Them "Thanks, But No Thanks"

Use a business’s toll–free telephone number, reply card or order envelope to remove your name from specific mailing lists. It is best to cut out your address from the envelope and return it, so the company will know exactly how you are listed on their list. If you want to receive a particular catalogue, but not monthly, ask the company to send you the annual or semiannual mailings only.

When giving an organization your name and address include a statement such as "Do not sell, rent or trade my name and address." Not all organizations will honor this request, but at least your wishes are made known. Additionally, you may write "In-house list only" so your name won’t be deleted from that particular organization’s list. Some organizations have made things easy by adding a statement and check box like this one:

____ Occasionally we make our mailing lists available to carefully selected companies. If you do not wish to have your name included, please check here.

Eight Steps to Reducing Junk Mail

  1. Credit Bureaus: Recent changes to the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act require credit bureaus to maintain toll-free numbers for consumers to call to have their names removed from credit card mailing lists. Since these same lists are used by the insurance industry for solicitation mailings, calling just one of the numbers listed below will reduce credit card and insurance mailing to your address. The unified number created by the credit bureaus is 1-800-567-8688.

    When you call, ask to have your name removed from their direct marketing files. Be prepared to give them your social security number (which they already have anyway). They will remove your name for a period of two years unless you specifically ask for permanent removal. For permanent removal from their marketing files, they may ask you for a written request.

  2. Preapproved Offers: Another requirement of the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the credit bureaus to give you the opportunity to opt out of offers for credit. To complete the opt out form, click here.
  3. Specific Credit Cards and Banks/Credit Unions: Your credit card company and bank may also be selling your name and address. Annually these institutions must notify you and explain how they use your information. Read this information carefully and then notify them of how they may use your information.
  4. General Advertisements/Catalogues: The Direct Marketing Association is a trade association of direct marketing companies. The Direct Marketing Association runs DMA Choice a service that is suppose to help you keep the mail you want and eliminate the mail you don't want. DMA Choice also can assist with mail for a person you are acting as the care giver for and for persons who are deceased. DMA Choice will take time to complete and modify but may be just the service you are looking for. To get started click here.
  5. Magazines, Newspapers, Newsletters, Charities, and Others: Whenever you subscribe or donate, tell them that you do not wish your name or address to be added to a mailing list, or sold, traded, or lent to any other organization for their mailing lists. Make a phone call or send a post card (less expensive) to current subscriptions telling them the same thing.
  6. Free Weekly Papers: Publishers are generally helpful when you want to cancel your subscription to these free weekly publications. Although not really junk mail, if you are not using them, you should consider canceling them. Simply call the subscription department and request that papers not be delivered to your address. If you continue receiving these papers, remember to recycle them.
  7. Unsolicited First Class Mail: Any first class mail you receive or any mail where "return postage is guaranteed" or "address correction requested" may be returned (unopened) to the sender. You should write "Refused by (your name); Return to Sender" on the envelope of this type of junk mail. Circle the "return postage guaranteed" or "address correction requested" phrase on the envelope. By including your name, you make it clear to your letter carrier that the piece of mail was not delivered to the wrong address.