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Ask Sid

Turning Off the Junk Mail Tap

Q. How can I stop receiving junk mail?

A. It depends on the type of mail you want to stop, but take the following steps and you should notice a significant dent within a few months.

  • To stop credit card and insurance offers, which if stolen from your mailbox can boost your risk of identity theft, call 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5-OPT-OUT) toll-free from your home telephone; the call will be checked against an address database to ensure it's really you on the line. Follow the automated prompts to opt out each family member for either five years or permanently.

You can also do this by going online.

If you choose the permanent opt-out, you'll have to send a form in the mail.

You'll be asked for personal information, but don't worry: This service is run by the three major credit-reporting bureaus, which already have your data (and cause you to get the mail in the first place by selling your name).

  • To stop mail from members of the Direct Marketing Association, go to the DMA online registry. (The DMA represents a wide collection of legitimate businesses that use telephone, mail and the Internet to sell their products, so chances are a lot of your junk mail is coming from member firms.) You can also download a form and return it by mail with $1 (check or money order) to the noted address.

To stop mailings arriving for a deceased family member, go online to the DMA's Deceased Do Not Contact List.

  • To stop other mail generated by firms called list brokers, you'll need to contact each broker. List brokers pool information from public records, phone books and other sources to sell to businesses, which explains those unsolicited window and siding replacement offers. You can get preprinted mailing labels online to make the task of contacting easier. Some leading brokers include:

Metromail Corporation
List Maintenance
901 West Bond
Lincoln, NE 68521

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

Database America
Compilation Department
470 Chestnut Ridge Rd.
Woodcliff, NJ 07677

Dun & Bradstreet
Customer Service
899 Eaton Ave.
Bethlehem, PA 18025

  • To reduce unwanted catalogs, contact the mail-order companies directly or use a free service at, which will send opt-out requests on your behalf.

You can also hire private companies such as — named for the reputed weight of junk mail that each adult receives annually — and to do the legwork for you.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.

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