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Ask Sid

How Can I Stop Junk Mail?

Sign up with websites that know how to block it

Q. Why is it that I get so much junk mail, and how can I stop it?

A. There are many ways that you can end up on a mailing list: You buy products or services, fill out warranty cards or donate to charity. Your name, address and perhaps other details go into one organization’s database and then are sold to other, similar organizations.

See also: Should you give out your ZIP code?

So if you buy from one retailer’s catalog, expect mailings from others; buy a home and you’re likely to get furniture mailings. In other cases, your name is simply taken from telephone directories and public records.

The best first step to stop most unwanted mailings is to visit www.dmachoice.org and click on “Get Started.” You’ll have to provide your name and address, of course. The website pledges these won’t be used to generate more junk mail.

Within two months, mailings should stop from many members of the Direct Marketing Association. But not from companies that you already do business with — you’ll have to contact them directly. You can also mail opt-out requests with a $1 personal check or money order to:

DMAchoice
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512

The stop lasts three years — and then you should sign on again to renew your request.  To completely cover your bases, consider these other opt-out options for specific types of mailings:

Preapproved credit card and insurance offers. To opt out of these for five years or permanently, visit optoutprescreen.com or call 1-888-567-8688 toll-free from your home telephone; your number will be checked against an address database.

You’ll be asked for your birth date and Social Security number. You should of course be very wary of disclosing such confidential information under any circumstances. But you can have some confidence giving it this time — the site is run by the main credit reporting bureaus, which already have your date of birth and Social Security number. Moreover, the site does not require that you give this information, but says that with the data in hand it will most likely be able to successfully stop your mailings.

Catalogs. To end mailings of select catalogs, contact the mail-order company or select individual companies from a menu at the nonprofit site Catalog Choice.

List brokers. These companies pool personal information from phone books and public records such as real estate documents, tax files and birth certificates to sell mailing lists to all types of businesses. Write to each listed below, requesting that your name be removed from all of their mailing and telemarketing lists; you can get preprinted forms at this website.

Metromail Corporation
List Maintenance
901 West Bond
Lincoln, NE 68521

R.L. Polk & Co. / Name Deletion File
List Compilation Development
26955 Northwestern Highway
Southfield, MI 48034-4716

Database America
Compilation Department
470 Chestnut Ridge Road
Woodcliff, NJ 07677

Acxiom: Opt out through Acxiom’s website.

You may also like: When do gift cards expire? »

Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer issues.

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