Junk Mail

Is your mailbox stuffed with magazine subscription offers, preapproved credit card offers, and advertisements for miracle cures? It seems that every year the amount of unsolicited offers circulating through the mail increases. Based on the number of letters I have received on this issue, it is clear that consumers are fed up with junk mail. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to restrict the flow of unsolicited mail to your mailbox.

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is a major trade association of businesses and organizations that engage in telephone, mail and Internet marketing. With over 3,600 members in the U.S. and 46 other nations, it is very likely that you receive unsolicited mail from members of the Association. An easy way to limit the amount of junk mail you receive is to take advantage of the DMA's Mail Preference Service. For a minimal fee of $1.00, this service allows consumers to remove their name and address from the mailing lists maintained by the DMA's member companies. You may register online or mail the mail-in registration form included on the same webpage to: Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 282, Carmel, NY 10512. "Preapproved" offers for credit and insurance are another common source of unwanted mail. Thanks to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act you have the right to opt out of receiving future "preapproved" or "prescreened" solicitations for credit or insurance. In addition to reducing the amount of junk mail you receive, opting out of preapproved offers can reduce your risk of identity theft resulting from stolen mail. To exercise your right to opt out of preapproved solicitations, call 1-888-5OPTOUT or visit their web site. You may choose to opt out for five years or permanently, and may opt back in at any time. Your request must be processed within five days, but it may take up to sixty days before you stop receiving preapproved offers.

One of the most powerful ways to avoid junk mail is to prevent your name and address from appearing on a mailing list in the first place. Sweepstakes and prize entry forms, consumer surveys and charity and non-profit donation forms require participants to provide personal information. Most consumers are unaware that oftentimes this information is sold to marketers. In fact, many sweepstakes are offered for the sole purpose of compiling consumer names and mailing addresses for marketing purposes. It is best to avoid sweepstakes and consumers surveys if you are concerned about junk mail, but if you do participate in these offers, inspect the entry form to see if there is a box to check to indicate that you do not want your information sold or rented.

For a comprehensive list of tips and strategies to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive, consider visiting the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse's website on the subject at: http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs4-junk.htm. The Federal Trade Commission has created a consumer alert on unsolicited mail, telemarketing and e-mail that includes a sample opt-out letter. The alert is available at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt063.pdf

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