Are You Drowning in Junk Mail? Start Here

How to Stop Drowning in Junk Mail

How to Stop Drowning in Junk Mail

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.

You need to put up a shield of protection over your mailbox:

  • 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. (Some people have interpreted this as my saying not to do this step. This is the number #1 thing you can do to stop junk mail. 99% of the people who find this blog will only need to do this and use PaperKarma. The problems come when you are trying to clean up 50+ years of junk mail mail like I am.)
  • If you are the legal guardian, or have Power of Attorney for a loved one use the Do Not Contact for Caretaker’s Registration (it has the same effect as the regular DMAChoice page) If you are receiving mail for a person who has passed away use the Deceased Do Not Contact Registration page.
  • You can also sign up for directmail.com‘s National Do Not Mail List. It is independent from DMAChoice.
  • Stop credit card offers: Opt-Out Pre-Screen or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) They are going to ask you for your Social Security Number. It is OK, that is the way the credit bureaus ID you.
  • Telemarketer InfoCision call them at (330)668-1400 or email them at infocis@infocision.com. They are called a telemarketer but they are so much more. They also do mailing list management for their clients. If you get a lot of phone calls from charities, more that likely it is these guys. Even if phone calls aren’t a problem contact them anyway.

This next group are all data brokers. They turn your life into data points that are sold to direct marketers:

If you want to go to the next level with opting out of data brokers and other data mining sites there is a lot more you can do.


Step 2. You have now put up a strong shield around your mail box. It is time to wait. It may take up to 3 months, to see a difference in your mail box. While you are waiting there are somethings you can do:

Sign up for Catalog Choice or PaperKarma. You must enter every group individually to opt out. I found PaperKarma to be more effective than Catalog Choice.

Clean up your everyday junk mail:
Red Plum, Penny Saver, and Valpak, The Unholy 3
To stop  Valpack coupons. To stop Red Plum ads. To stop the PennySaver.

Publishers Clearing House
Opt-out of Publishers Clearing House this is a gateway to the next lower level of junk mail, opt-out here or use one of the services.
Opt-out of Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes customercare@rd.com or call (877)732-4438

Mail Revenge: Make them pay for wasting your time.

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.


Step 3. Three months have passed, you can see a difference in the junk mail you get, but it is still to much. It is time to escalate your strategy.

Directly contact the company who is sending you stuff. That is a phone call and an email on the same day. I found calling to be way more effective than email. I also didn’t leave a message, unless there was an option in the phone tree for opting out of their mailing list.

Find out who their direct marketing firm is. The direct marketing firms that were sending the most stuff were American Target Advertising, HSP Direct, Base Connect, Response Unlimited.

How to research the people who make the junk mail.

If you didn’t get a reply from either the phone call or the email it is time to go to the next level. Contact the Ethics Board at the DMA and fill out an Ethics Complaint form. They will send a stern letter to the offender. My guide to filling out a DMA Ethics Complaint. You should also contact your state’s attorney general and file a complaint with them. The AG will also send a letter to the junk mailer asking them to stop. You need to leave a paper trail with as many people as possible. What they are doing is harassment. If enough people file complaints the “charity” and everyone they work with will get into trouble.


Fraud letter and USPS form 1500
Step 4. 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) They must be selling you something in the mailpiece. Asking for $20 to get $10 million counts, and it works on all sweepstakes. It does not work on charities 501(c)(3) or Political Action Committees 501(c)(4). It does not work on international mail. Only on mail that comes from the US. Lucky for you that as you stop the US scams, the international scams also stop.

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


If this whole process has not soured you on donating to charities and political causes please read my guide on How to be a More Effective Charitable Donor. I will sum it up for you: If you ask them not to share your information and they do, stop sending them money. Charities need to learn that the money they make form selling out their donors will cost them the donor’s loyalty, trust, and most importantly their money.

 

50 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

    Like

  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!!!

    Like

  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?

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  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/

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  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.

    Like

  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!

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  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.

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  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.

    Liked by 1 person

  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.

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    • 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.

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      • 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.

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      • 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.

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  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.

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  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.

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    • 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.

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      • 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.

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      • I think that is to “camouflage” any appearance of holding something of value. It’s for your benefit.
        I don’t think we should receive ANY mail we don’t want. It IS an intrusion of our privacy. I think we need a federal law that reads IF the receiver of such informs the sender to remove your name/address from their mailing lists, and they do not do so, the sender should hear from the Post Office and threatened with a big fine!

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  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.

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  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?

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    • 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.

      Like

    • 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!

      Like

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

  15. Thank you for this information. I am so sick of these companies sending solicitations to my elder aunt who has dementia. She is so vulnerable to this crap. But with this information and my Power of Attorney, I’m hoping I can trim down some of the mail.

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  16. Will filling out the 1500 form eventually get me off all the scammers lists? I’m really frustrated because I went through all of the above steps DMAchoice.org do not call list, optoutprescreen.com. I even contacted all the major data brokers. Epsilon (formerly Abacus) InfoUSA, dun and bradstreet, atozdatabase, etc to have our info removed. I virtually had no junk mail whatsoever coming to our address for almost the past year, just regular mail. This is why I am dumbfounded now, because just in the last 2 weeks, all of a sudden I am starting to get scam offers in the mail everyday. I haven’t responded or ordered anything, so I’m baffled as to how they got my info and where they got it. I received 1 offered for a free trip, if I pay a fee. The next day, it was one that told me to send $100 to the person in the letter. I got another one for government grants, if I send them anywhere from $49.99 to $249.99. Would these qualify under the 1500 form?

    Also, how did they get my info if I haven’t been on any mailing list for over a year now.

    Any advice or thoughts?

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    • “Will filling out the 1500 form eventually get me off all the scammers lists”

      Yes, you will get kicked of the list of the person who sent you something and hopefully a master mailing list also.

      From your description it sounds like they all qualify. They must have return addresses in the USA.

      I wish I knew how they picked who to send junk mail to. Phonebooks? Voter rolls? They are using a big general list to find people.

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  17. Just found your blog last week after spending over 2 months sending mail back to multiple political organizations my elderly mother has gotten herself drowning in. Fascinated by what I have read and realize my attempts will mostly be ignored. Working on your approach as I write. I have a couple I wonder if you have experience with: David Bossie, “Citizens United” for a Secure America, Committee to Investigate the Obama White House, etc; He also uses different PO Boxes for each “project”. A new one today, Clarice Navarro, Hispanic Republican Fund, a project of VIGOP (Virgin Islands GOP??) The envelopes look similar to the ones from Base Direct.

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  18. My FiL who is 88, receives about 8-15 pieces of mail a day. In August, 2014 we did a temporary change of address to weed out the bulk mail and focus on the 1st class (they’re the ones that send postage paid return envelopes and cash). The post office said a lot of the bulk mailing would stop since the address was no longer valid. The mail went down to 3-8 a day and after an aggressive letter writing campaign I got it down to 1-3 a week. We just transferred his mail back and had hoped the junk mail would have lessened, but no. This week I’ve opted out by email, website, telephone, web connect, and paper Karma, 43 letters not including double mailings! Many of the organizations are very helpful and confirm by email the removal of his name. A lot, never confirm and after several months of still getting their letters I’ve become quite abrasive when dealing with them.
    This Blog has been by far the most valuable tool in my epic battle on the donation request front. I search it daily for opt out links and information. Thank you for all the help!

    Like

    • I am glad you are using the blog the way I intended. When they ignore you, that is when you should start to escalate. Go over their heads, and find their direct marketing firm. Do not hesitate tattling on them to the DMA.

      If you want to out the real nasties that won’t stop sending you stuff, list them here.

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      • So far the worst offenders are:
        The RNC, Sarah PAC, and the American Conservative Union, though the American Republican Congressional Committee is running a close second. I left for a week vacation and came back to a grocery bag full of mail. To date, I have an excell spreadsheet of 71 organizations with only 21 confiming removal. A quick look in the bag this morning showed very few duplicates so my list is about to grow. On the positive side Base Connect, DMA Choice, and Response Unlimited have confirmed my Opt Out requests. Again, Thank You!!

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      • To any direct marketing people who stumble on this blog: That rate of response is dreadful. It is shameful that this man is working as hard as he is to stop junk mail, and everyone is ignoring him. All of you should be ashamed your fellow direct mail marketers, and yourselves for letting these people exist in your field.

        Mike, in 3 months it should get better. Also contact InfoCision. They seem to have their fingers in every pie.

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  19. darthjenni, Thanks. I added InfoCision to my spreadsheet this morning. Started digging in at 6:30 am and just finished 2:00 pm. I have added 34 new recipients to my list, though at least that many were from people I have contacted in the past 30 days. All have been added to Paper Karma (great app), 13 emailed, 8 phone calls, 12 on line opt out’s, and several leading to the same parent organizations (American Service Council, Citizens Assembly, etc) and one pending a DMA request. The good news, 4 have responded today removing my FiL from their list.
    Another 3 months and I’ll pull my greying hair out! I started the online campaign in October.
    The hardest part has been to get my FiL to stop opening and reading them. I told him ALL the “Urgent”, “Immediate Attention”, and “Reply Deadline” stamps are designed to get him to open and contribute without puting it off, and were pre-programmed to be mailed 10 weeks ago! It took 10 WEEKS for them to give him a 24 hour response deadline!! Many older people have the means and desire to help and be involved. For many, it’s their only way to be involved. It’s a shame these marketing firms inundate their mailboxes to a point no one receives contributions.

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  20. Dear darthjenni, I can’t thank you enough for all of your information. I’ve been battling this since early last November on behalf of my mom, who has early alzheimer’s. I was under the mistaken belief that if you notified a company in writing that they had to stop sending junk/solicitations. Some do, but many don’t, so I reported the repeat offenders to the Postal Inspector. He wrote back but was no help. I’ve read your blog from start to finish and for the first time I feel like I might actually get somewhere. My biggest repeat offenders are the political causes and politicians (namely the Senior’s Trust, the Safe Borders Coalition, and US Freedom Fund – all of which have the same PO Box in DC), followed by veterans groups, then the various charities. So far I’ve sent 89 letters to different causes, 165 if you count repeats. I’ve sent 3 with glitter in to the most persistent ones. I’m also calling all the telemarketers I find in her caller ID. I’m up to 42 of those. That biggest offender is the Tea Party and NRA. I wrote a letter directly to the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre and was told when I called 10 days later that she was off the list. I also signed up for Catalog Choice and Paperkarma. My mom doesn’t understand the problem and hasn’t been cooperative. I’m considering the locked mailbox idea. Your site has been a Godsend. Thank-you

    Liked by 1 person

  21. My FiL and MiL passed Dec/Jan respectively. Had mail fwd’d to our address for bill’s etc. Lots of BBM (I’m retired Postal). Did the DMA thing, awaitng results. Have called several mailers, with a 6-8 weeks stop time. We’ll see.
    Like the escalation tactics. I realize that all this is a P.I.T.A., but P.O. makes a lot of money on BBM. Largest revenue maker, as people don’t write as much anymore and first class postage is WAY down. All the pennies or metal scraps in an envelope, or anything not flat like paper, only tear up the mail processing machines I used to maintain. Stuff the envelope to no more then 1/4 inch. Will go through the machine, but costs the receiver as they pay by weight AND piece. Make sure it’s still flexible to go around an 18 inch “bull-wheel”. Destroying the barcode, at the bottom right or the “FIM” code to the left of where the stamp goes forces the P.O. to have to perform additional steps to process the mail and costs the receiver additional postage.

    Like

    • Thank you for confirming the rummers I found about envelope stuffing. It was never my intention to break the sorting machines, but to punish the junk mail sender with postal fees.

      Like

  22. Thank you for all your research and information. I have been trying to cut back on the amount of mail my parents get….given they are both in their 80’s and not well. I got a response back yesterday from Epsilon (privacy@epsilon.com) which I thought was amazing. They said due to privacy concerns, they wanted to see my power of attorney or else hear from my parents directly (they would if they could!). Every other company (at least the few who responded to me) was helpful and removed their address without complaint or comment. Do I really need to send a power of attorney to Epsilon? I think they are nuts. And yes, I did do go the DMA site and do the power of attorney thing there….but I am not going to start sending legal documnents to a direct mail company just to stop junk mail!

    Like

    • If you are super serious about stopping the junk mail do it. I agree with you that Epsilon’s request is over the top. They will sell your data to anyone with enough $$$. But if you want to make it stop you have to jump through a bunch of hoops.

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  23. My father has been in a nursing home now for 4 months. He had 20 stacks of junk mail, each at least a foot high, on his floor waiting to be opened. Since I have been going through his mail, I have registered him under the dma caregivers, called all that I can find phone numbers for, sent back postage paid envelopes stating to remove his name, and hand written letters to abou30 others-all since Apr 14–353 places total so far! The amount reduced so far is tremendous-however now he is getting many NEW solicitations from political campaigns and I can’t find phone numbers for most of them. What can be done about these? Thanks for any help! D.juday.

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    • I would go to the official campaign website first, and look for a Contact page. They should have an email address or web mail form to fill out. If you can’t find contact info on their website try looking on Balltpedia Look for the “Campaign Manager” they all have Twitter accounts Tweet @ them that you want off the mailing list. After that you have to start combing through FEC and IRS documents. A normal person should not have to do all that. Who is bugging you? I will get you their info.

      Like

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