How To Stop Junk Mail With Free & Paid Services

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2011-11-3017

I can see how debt can grow into something uncontrollable and unmanageable to the point of crushing someone financially. This is what I could foresee happening to me if I took up all the loan offers that used to come my way. I would wonder: how did mail marketers find out where I live? After all, I don’t borrow very much — I only have a small credit card line which I pay off monthly and a reasonably sized mortgage. Should we resign ourselves to a fate filled with mail spam for the rest of our lives?

Our Junk Mail Problem

We have a junk mail problem in this country. The U.S. Postal Service processes and delivers 272.4 million pieces of advertising mail each day. A lot of mine ends up on my dining room table in the form of pizza coupons and reminders from magazines that I only have three issues left. I also get a weekly letter from the phone company imploring me to call about a wonderful deal they’ve found for me. Then there are loan offers. Have you ever stopped to think about how much money is dropping by your doorstep in the guise of home equity lines of credit, credit card applications, random loan deals, checking account offers (at least, there’s no evil catch on this one) and such? I mean, just think about all those juicy checks and easy dollars they dangle in front of us. I ruined my latest shredder while trying to dispose of one too many credit card offers.

free money

During the peak of the credit bubble, I calculated a week’s worth of junk mail offers and came up with around $600K of credit and free miles ready for me to pluck and spend away. There were at least 15 credit card enticements in our pile, all pretty much saying the same thing and trumpeting similar deals, most with limits set at $2,000. We, of course, treat all of this as scrap, which means they immediately hit the confetti bin as torn, indistinguishable shreds. But I couldn’t help but think about all the people who have received the same tempting credit lines who think of these as life saving schemes and as a way out of denial and constant restriction. These days, things have tamed down somewhat but not in an entirely significant way.

I personally get annoyed that so much paper had to go in the production of so much junk. And frankly, here’s wishing that you do too. Is there something we can do about managing the amount of unsolicited mail we receive?

Older Methods of Controlling Junk Mail

In the past, a number of standard solutions seemed effective, if a bit time consuming. Here’s a look at a few of them.

#1 OptOutPrescreen.com

The major credit bureaus offer OptOutPrescreen.com to consumers who don’t want precreened credit and insurance offers. You can opt out for either five years via the website or permanently, by filling out a form and mailing it in. You can change your mind and opt-in again later if your needs change.

Note that this method will only stop prescreened offers for credit and insurance, not the stacks of advertising from local merchants such as the pizza places downtown, the funeral homes or the dry cleaners. You’ll still hear from politicians and charity groups, though. However, you shouldn’t be worried that signing up for this service will affect your ability to apply for credit.

#2 DMAchoice.org

Some time back, I took the time to drop by the Direct Marketing Association to see what to do about the junk mail coming to my home. This group now offers DMAchoice.org so consumers can list their preferences for commercial mail. They can also help you with unsolicited email. However, this won’t stop all commercial mail or unsolicited email because not all marketers subscribe to the DMA’s service.

#3 National Do Not Call Registry

This registry can stop many telemarketers from dialing your phone number, but not all of them. Thanks to a law that became effective in 2008, your number will be on the registry permanently. Ironically, Today Money found out that the amount of junk mail sent out increased after the Do Not Call Registry began in 2003. But I’m happy that the volume of unsolicited calls to my house has decreased since I signed up.

#4 Say No To Correspondence (or Go Paperless)

Finally, don’t forget to look for opt-out information when you sign up for a new service or shop at a new online store. This should stop any offers from hitting your mailboxes. If you have a choice between having mail or receipts going to your home’s mailbox vs your email inbox, go for the email option to reduce the paper clutter.

Free & Paid Services To Stop Junk Mail

There are other solutions to help us control junk mail, some of which have a fee. Let’s check them out.

#1 Catalog Choice

Catalog Choice

In addition to the more familiar methods of reducing junk mail, there are innovative services like Catalog Choice. It’s a company that can assist you with stemming the junk mail river. According to the Los Angeles Times, Catalog Choice has processed 20 million requests to stop catalogs in the last four years. They aim to reduce clutter and protect your privacy by removing your name from marketing databases. Also, you’ll be helping the environment by teaming up with the company.

You can register for free. The free service lets you opt out of mail from individual companies. Start out by entering your name and address, then you can start searching for companies to remove. Catalog Choice will then work to remove you from company lists. You can search your zip code to remove phone books, coupons and other types of marketing, too. If you have junk mail in more than one name or you receive it at multiple addresses, you can add them in as well. I found this beneficial because some of my junk mail still sports my maiden name.

When I decided to eliminate a phone book, I was asked to check the name and address and check off a reason for stopping the service. After that, I was told it may take another mailing cycle since the labels are printed ahead of time. And since Catalog Choice is a non-profit, I was asked to donate to help offset the cost of running the service.

There are over 3,000 companies you can target with the free service. After you’ve made your selections, you can track the status under the “Your Choices” tab. The organization pledges to never sell your email or address to anyone, in case you have privacy concerns.

Catalog Choice has paid services as well, which aims to tackle the junk mail problem more efficiently:

  • You can also opt for their upgraded service called the MailStop Shield. This is an annual service that can get your name removed from a variety of databases. But it’s available for an annual cost of $20.
  • MailStop Envelope is another premium service for $6.75, which will send you a postage-paid envelope from Catalog Choice. Place your junk mail and catalogs into this envelope, which you then return to Catalog Choice to process on your behalf. You can put 15 opt-outs at a time in the envelope. They’ll process things like charitable solicitations, coupons, catalogs and other direct mail.
  • Another service coming soon is MailStop Mobile, so you can use your iPhone to opt-out of junk mail.

Balking at the cost of using these services? Their MailStop Shield costs less than most of the shredders I priced last week and I stand to save a ton of time.

#2 41Pounds.org

41 Pounds

Another company that wants to help you control junk mail is 41pounds.org. Their name comes from a statistic: the average person receives 41 pounds of spam a year! If this is the case, I can only weep for our forests! The site claims to stop 80% to 95% of the junk mail and catalogs that you don’t want. Incidentally, the service costs $41 for five years, which works out to a little over $8 a year. You can add the names of other household members to this service as well.

#3 Updater

Updater

Updater is another company willing to combat your junk mail. The Address Privacy package costs $0.50 a month, which allows you to customize your own Do-Not-Mail list. Through this service, you’ll be able to filter out the spam from your snail mail and block out marketing groups from accessing your contact information. Updater also has a free Address Change service to make it more convenient for you if you’re planning a move.

So does junk mail bother you? Are any of the paid services worth it to you if you could skip the catalogs, phone books, pizza coupons and credit card solicitations that clog your mailbox?

Created March 18, 2007. Updated November 30, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

never again debt March 18, 2007 at 8:35 pm

I stopped using credit cards in 2001. A while ago I started getting credit card offers and needed to shred them, because I wouldn’t toss them in the trash. So I put them in a garbage bag, under my bed, waiting for me to buy a shredder. Well, I never bought a shredder. I got one for this Xmas as a present. When I pulled out the garbage bag to start shredding, I was amazed at what I saw. The actual picture is on my blog site.

Just say no! When you look at the photo you will realize how ridiculous these companies are.

Editor: I’m sorry to say that I can’t find this picture anymore!

Silicon Valley Blogger March 18, 2007 at 10:34 pm

I did look at your photo on your blog and let me say that your sack of would-be-debt definitely rivals my pile of would-be-debt. I get these forms and invitations each and every week and I am annoyed by the waste they produce! My confetti bin gets full way too easily.

frugal zeitgeist March 19, 2007 at 5:26 am

You can get rid of these offers by going to the Direct Marketing Association website to join their opt-out list. If I remember correctly, you can opt out either for two years or for life.

Be forewarned, though: if you donate money to charity or buy anything from a catalog, you’ll end up right back on junk mail lists. Be prepared to go through this exercise once every couple of years.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 19, 2007 at 8:18 am

I’ll check out your suggestions. Unfortunately for me, I do buy off of a catalog once in a while and especially off the web. Thanks for these tips! If anyone has used these opt out mechanisms, let us know if it works….

ispf March 19, 2007 at 7:35 pm

Wow, $600K in one week seems unbelievable!!! I thought I got too many, and mine isnt a fraction of that! I do however open each of these mails and check, before heading to the shredder. If there is a juicy 0% offer, with no balance transfer fees, and the introductory 0% rate is valid for more than 12 months, and I have not applied for a credit card in the past 6 months, I go ahead and apply for it. I will then park the cash in a CD and make sure I make the minimum payments every month. And pay off the full amount atleast a month before the intro APR expires. The interest is mine to keep. In the past, when we were ignorant, the credit card companies made some money from us. It’s our turn now to recover it.

(more info in the link to my name, if interested)

Silicon Valley Blogger March 19, 2007 at 9:50 pm

Yes, the $600K adds up from a lot of home equity lines of credit. They make up huge chunks of these offers. I’d love to do some credit card arbitrage but with the time I have, I’m afraid I’ll forget to keep track of what’s going on and end up in the hole with it. ;)

LC December 5, 2007 at 9:20 am

I have been able to refuse mail. I received, in one week, 30 copies of the same TV guide issue which I did not and have never subscribed to. I put them in the mailbox with a note not to deliver them anymore and haven’t seen them since. I don’t know if that would work for junk mail though.

I also receive many credit card offers – usually about 1 a week, and I have never had any credit cards or debt of any kind. Try and explain that one!

Louisville real estate March 30, 2008 at 6:22 pm

Thank God I am not tempted by credit card offers… I just give them to my 3 year old to play with! :)

Marsello March 30, 2008 at 6:55 pm

Good advice, I only carry 2 credit cards myself, VISA and Amex and use them both for the cashback and points only along with building my credit history.

Dividends4Life March 31, 2008 at 7:17 am

Junk mail stolen from your mailbox can also be a source of identity theft.

Best Wishes,
D4L

Frugal Dad April 1, 2008 at 6:27 am

Temptation from credit card offers and catalogs is reason enough to put an end to the junk mail. It is always amusing how many people find they “need” something only after seeing this advertised in a newspaper circular.

Working Dollar April 1, 2008 at 7:50 am

Most junk mail I get ends up being credit card offers – and Lifelock helps me eliminate that problem.

jim April 2, 2008 at 8:17 am

@WorkingDollar: optoutprescreen.com is free, all lifelock does it call up the credit bureaus and request a freeze on your account every 90 days (or 180, I forget), just an FYI.

Personally, I never apply for anything unless I request it myself. By this I mean, if someone offers me something, I generally ignore it. It’s only when I request information do I ever take action… so all credit solicitations go in the recycling bin after shredding.

Ron@TheWisdomJournal April 4, 2008 at 1:34 am

Credit card companies keep increasing my limits without even asking. It seems like, as I get them paid off, they’re in a panic that I might not use them anymore. I think they keep increasing the limit hoping that there’s something expensive I’ve been waiting to buy.

Stefan Lombard November 28, 2011 at 1:07 am

Why can’t companies leave us alone? I use credit cards but I actively applied for these cards, and I recall having done some extensive research on them as I was particular about choosing those that gave me back the best rewards for my needs. I chased after them myself, not the other way around!

Susan Shaw November 30, 2011 at 7:30 pm

A simple debt elimination tip: if you want to reduce your debt, don’t get tempted to take it on in the first place! I agree that one way to avoid debt is by reducing your junk mail — the kind of mail which carries offers for credit cards and personal loans that you may find enticing enough to apply for.

TruthfulPete December 3, 2011 at 10:56 pm

In general, banks (credit cards) in today’s society are thieves. The outrageous percentage rates they are able to impose along with their favorite money maker: “fees” , under the guise of legit business while greedily enjoying top tier salaries in tax shelters, huge profits shared among the employee bonus recipients utilizing legal tax “loop-holes”, reminds me of legalized racquet-anthony’eerio’s gone from the old days in the “neighborhoods” to capitalistic main street empires with society’s acceptance blessed in the name of “credit scores” to which one must have to buy a home loan.

Not a broken face if you can’t pay, just a smear of your name across the board with all your finances and open loans (those rates bounce up) which in turn digs the deeper hole of debt; effectively blackmailing your ability and or security to get and keep a job nowadays.’ Keep oneself away from these types of folks…’ your mom would say, so keep as far away as you may! But, if you must play, remember the adage ‘Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.’ While you read the fine print legalese on the account.

Just remember not to give them a penny more than you can afford or add to their pocket not yours. Keep your spending under control. Save up and show control when eyeing a new big screen TV as it feels better to pay it off immediately than trying to enjoy it while you struggle to pay the debt off. The banks certainly do not care if you can’t sleep that night after trying to watch a movie on your unpaid and feel–good-right-now purchase.

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