Are You Drowning in Junk Mail? Start Here

This is a round up of my odyssey of trying to save an old woman (and my mail box) from junk mail. This is the quick easy version if you want to see the fun, and the thought process that went into this list, read the rest of the blog. I will be updating this page as I get better at stopping junk mail.


Step 1. I had to take a scorched earth strategy when attacking the junk mail. When you are getting 20+ pieces of junk mail a day, you just need to make it stop.

Box o' Junk Mail, 134 pieces

I recommend tossing all the mail in a big box and sorting through it once a week. That way you can really see who is sending the most stuff, and focus on them. Open everything, you will be getting free money, return address labels, stamps, calendars and, note pads. A lot of the cost of stopping the junk mail will be off set by these freebies.

  • Sign up for DMAChoice this will stop everything that you or your elderly person has never given money to, either bought a product or given a donation. The updated list is sent out 4 times a year: January, April, July, and October. It will take 6 to 8 weeks after the the next update to see a difference in your mailbox. If you are the legal guardian, have Power of Attorney for a loved one use the Do Not Contact for Caretaker’s Registration. I didn’t use this but I could have. If you are receiving mail for a person who has passed away use the Deceased Do Not Contact Registration page.
  • If you are still getting to much mail, sign up for Catalog Choice or PaperKarma. You must ask every group individually to opt out.
  • The next step after that is finding out who their direct marketing firm is. (coming soon)

A couple of the top groups that were sending me the most stuff were:

The #1 way people find my site is looking up United States Investigative Unit

Policy Issues Institute, United States Investigative Unit junk mail

It is a project of  Policy Issues Institute. You can opt out of PII and a bunch of other groups by contacting direct mail firm Response Unlimited.

8 From NCPPR

The National Center for Public Policy Research you can either use Catalog Choice or PaperKarma to opt-out or if you are me you will “Send an e-mail to info@nationalcenter.org, with the subject header ‘Delete from Solicitation’. Please include your name and mailing address in your e-mail correspondence.” and stop it at the source. Read this to help ID all the NCPPR front groups.

FRC Envelopes

Federation of Responsible Citizens (FRC) is less well known but you can get over 10 letters from them in one week. E-mail them here FedofRespCitizen@aol.com. Read this to help ID all the FRC front groups.

Even if you don’t see mail with these group’s names on it in big print you may still be getting mail from a front group, or a close political friend.

FRC Close up

Look closely at the return envelope it may tell you who is really sending you mail. In this case The American Federation of Senior Citizens is a project of FRC, so you would send an e-mail to Federation of Responsible Citizens.

Publishers Clearing House

Another big one is Publishers Clearing House this is a gateway to the next lower level of junk mail, opt-out here or use one of the services.

Red Plum, Penny Saver, and Valpak, The Unholy 3

To stop  Valpack coupons. To stop Red Plum ads. To stop the PennySaver.

This next part is the hardest. Wait. It can take up to 3 months for an address to cycle out of the mailing lists. From here on out we will be dealing with scams and other predatory mail that is targeted at the elderly.


Step 2. Mail Revenge: You have waited to be cycled out of legitimate mailing lists. All that should be left is the real dregs. 419 scams of various kinds, from the US and abroad. Open everything.

No Postage Necessary if Mailed in the United States

The prize you are looking for are postage paid envelopes.

Fake Checks & Real Money

Fake checks, real money, and stamps are a bonus. Take the pre-paid envelopes and whatever they want you to send back, write in big letters “Take me off your mailing list”. Then stuff the envelope as much as you can.

Stuffed Fake Lottery

Be creative, other junk mail, fake money, glitter.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic National Committee, Stuffed envelope

The sky is the limit as long as it fits in the envelope. Try to get the thickness of the envelope over 1/4in, that makes it cost even more.

Stuffed, Sharpied and ready to go

Then mark out all the bar codes on the front of the envelope. By adding weight, thickness, and marking out the routing codes you will cost them more money when they have to pay the post office. This should get you kicked off the next lower level of junk mail.


Fraud letter and USPS form 1500

Step 3. This is the nuclear option. This one takes more time and a little money, and is best used on the worst scammy junk mail you get. Declare it porn. Fill out the Post office’s Prohibitory Order Against Sender (USPS form 1500). This will make it stop in 30 days. USPS form 1500 (PDF) also called a  Prohibitory Order. This is an excellent walk through of the process from Knowmore.org (the web site seems to be down so I am linking to the Wayback Machine version)

Update: This does not work on international mail. Only on mail that comes from the US. I am working on a way to stop international scams.
Update to the update: The international scams stop, when you are dropped US based scamer’s mailing lists.

Update: They must be selling you something in the mail piece. Asking for $20 to get $10 million counts, and it works on all sweepstakes.

Update: Here is my How to guide to filling out Prohibitory Order Against Sender (USPS form 1500).

29 thoughts on “Are You Drowning in Junk Mail? Start Here

  1. If this works I’m for using it. I get so much crap mail I loose a half a day opening it and my shredder isn’t big enough to eat it if it’s not opened and my name taken out thanks for the information. I’ll let all my friends know

  2. THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!!!
    My parents and I have been working with my elderly grandmother who has dementia, to try and get her to stop sending $$ to these companies. Now we have a way of doing something! We have had her mail switched to go to us and I will be starting this TODAY!
    Thanks so much!!!

  3. There are some I want to continue supporting. Then new ones come in. Is there an organization that separates the illegal/phoney ones from the legitimate ones?

  4. You can tell the groups you like to not sell your information. You can also look up almost any charity at Charity Navigator http://www.charitynavigator.org/. You want to see things like over 75% of budget going to programs, and fundraising less than 25% of budget. Instead of giving a little to a lot of charities give a lot to a select few. Your dollars will make more impact for your favorite causes. http://freakonomics.com/2012/12/06/charitable-giving-why-fewer-is-more/

  5. This may be the ultimate scorched earth, but a friend once glued pennies all over both sides of several pieces of paper and mailed back in a prepaid envelope. a couple dollars worth of pennies cost over $48 for them to receive. They finally stopped mailing once they received that letter.

  6. This is terrific advice… Thanks!
    Last year, we moved to a new home in a different town. Since then, both my wife and I have been receiving copies of magazines (not porn!) that we never ordered. (Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone). We get them monthly, as if we had subscribed. We have no idea how we started getting them. Mostly, they go directly into the recycle bin. The actual “scam-ish” part started happening at the beginning of this year: We started getting notices that it was time to “renew our subscriptions.” Each magazine listed above has individually sent at least one notice/offer to renew. These notices go into the recycle bin, along with the mags.

    In the grand scheme of things, this nuisance is fairly low on the scale. However, it would be great to be able to stop the flow of dead trees. Any ideas what’s going on, and how to stop it?

    Thanks again!

  7. Sign up for DMA Choice first, and you can block specific magazines. Also you can call each magazine individually. I can’t find the information right now, but there is a company that does predatory selling of magazine subscriptions. It is possible you got on their radar somehow. I hope that helps :)

    And thanks everyone for stopping by! It is good to see lots of people clicking through on DMA Choice and form 1500. While you are signing yourself up, sign up your parents and grandparents too. The best way to stop junk mail is to not let it get started in the first place.

  8. Awesome ideas. Love the mail revenge part! Adding pennies to weigh it down! Woohoo!

    It’s hard to escape the junk mail list if you ever buy a house. We get lots of junkmail with our exact mortgage amount on it. It keeps our shredder busy.

  9. First stop: mailbox
    Second stop: recycle bin, where everything not private or actionable gets dumped
    Third stop: Computer, to pay bills
    Fourth stop: Shredder
    Fifth stop: filing cabinet.
    Total elapsed time: <5 minutes.

    • Oh Mr. Snape if it was only that easy. When you get 20+ pieces in a day it takes more than 5 minuets to look through the mail. Also you are in fine mental health. How long it would take you if you had lost your short term memory? Take note of all the 2 in 1 day mail pieces she gets. She would send a check for both of them, because she forgot she just did it a few minuets ago.

      • My apologies – I didn’t mean to minimize the difficulty or trauma associated with your or your mother’s task. My wife is a hoarder, and it’s imperative that I’m the person to do this, else it goes into the infinite retention pile.

      • Now that I have seen first hand the effect of massive amounts of junk mail can have on a house, I can see how a person who is a hoarder anyway can have the whole house spin out of control in a short time. Good luck to you and your wife.

  10. For credit-related and insurance offers, go to optoutprescreen.com. Obviously our credit bureaus are selling addresses of those with good credit. It was the best thing I ever did and I feel more secure about not receiving multiple pre-approved credit card offers every single day.

  11. Be careful with the stuffing the Postage Paid envelopes. The receiving company can, and will, refuse delivery of obviously stupidly-stuffed envelopes. Then they don’t have to pay any money for the postage at all.
    **The post office will have to eat the cost of that, which we all have to pay for in the end.**
    It is best to simply place the actual thing they want returned to them with your address but no other information and a big STOP SENDING ME MAIL or EVERY THING YOU MAIL ME WILL BE RETURNED IN ONE OF THESE ENVELOPES COSTING YOU MONEY. Something like that.

    • Stuffing the envelopes will cost them money (unless they are obvious enough to be refused), but writing “Take Me Off Your Mailing List” will not work for most of the large operators. This is because they use mail sorting and data processing contractors that only get paid for the data entry/check processing – they just toss any envelope that does not have an application and/or check. [I got this info from someone who worked for one of these data processing companies as a temp job.]

      Post Office Domestic Mail Manual code 8.4.6, “BRM may not be used for any purpose other than that intended by the permit holder, even when postage is affixed. In cases where a BRM card or letter is used improperly as a label, the USPS treats the item as waste.”

      ——–
      Why waste pennies??? A friend saved scrap sheet metal and cut it into envelope sized pieces.
      ——-

      One thing I find irritating is when a legitimate notice or bill is put in an envelope that looks like junk mail – even worse is when it also has ads in the envelope.

      • I thought when They said “label” they meant tapping a prepaid envelope to a box. Putting stuff in an envelope is not using it as a label. I realize that sending back the prepaid envelopes is the least effective technique I use. But it is good therapy at the end of the week to mix up all the junk mail and send it back. It has worked on smaller charities that have not farmed out the fundraising operations.

  12. Great summary of how to deal with this problem. And the comments add more info.
    I’ve done pretty much all of this over the last 7 years. I didn’t have a particularly horrible problem, but I moved to a house that had had 4 prior owners in 4 years, so I got their junk, then my mom died and I had her address forwarded to me, so I could take care of her stuff, and I got her junk.
    At long last, I get maybe 1 junk piece a month, at worst. Yep, you read that right.
    It’s definitely a triage situation – the easy stuff goes away quickly, and the worst of the worst are very few in number.
    For most legitimate businesses, a simple email through their website usually works. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries. One pro trick, though, after being ignored, is to go to the top. Doing a websearch on “@companyname.com” for example, will usually yield the email format the company uses, e.g., “j.jones@companyname.com”. Then it’s not hard to identify the higher-ups’ (president, VPs, etc.) names, and just blast them with the info that customer service is ignoring your simple request. I’ve gotten a couple of chagrined emails from presidents/etc. and the problem has always been promptly taken care of after that.
    Re Prohibitory orders. The “porn” designation is really a legacy of the original law, dating back to 1970, I believe. Court decisions have extended the right to refuse mailings that offer any product or service for sale. (So you can’t PO charity junk-mail unless there’s some consideration offered in return.) The USPS has just never bothered to change the forms. POs really work – I’ve done 6 or 7, and have never seen them violated.
    One problem on the horizon, though, is a newish USPS program: EDDM or Every Door Direct Mail. It lets businesses blast all addresses on letter carriers’ routes, without needing to address them individually. You’ll see the “EDDM” mentioned in the upper-right corner where a stamp would be. Such pieces are addressed to “Occupant” or something like that, so there’s no way to opt-out that I know of. At best, you can just complain to the company and tell them you’ll boycott them, I guess. I’ve heard rumors that an opt-out program may be in the works.
    In short, a little work, and a little patience, can stop almost all junk mail.

  13. Forty four years ago my ex-husband took a “personality assessment” quiz from an erstwhile cult that now calls itself a religion. I have been getting mail and magazines from this group ever since. I wrote them and explained that he was no longer at my address, but they ignored me. I get junk mail from them nearly every day, even 3-4 items a day. Has anyone ever managed to get out from under a group like this one?

    • Scientology is notorious for having a zombie mailing list. One of the ways they count members is by how many people are on it’s mailing list. Even though it is filled with people like your ex-husband, who only had one interaction with them. You need to fill out a Prohibitory Order (USPS Form 1500) for one piece of mail. Try to pick one where they are directly selling something, a book, a course package, a trip on the Freewinds boat. That will make it stop in 30 days. No one messes with the USPS, not even Scientology.

    • Good find. The link on Mr. Riley’s Blog is apart of the DMA site, they have a link on the home page. I couldn’t long in, but hopefully others can.
      Zairmail and EDDM is a type of direct mail that I haven’t begun to deal with yet. I love the fact that the info I always want is at the bottom of the page in white type.
      Good luck with your dad!

  14. Pingback: How to remove yourself from scammer's contact lists

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