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.
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 email@example.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:
- acxiom. They have gotten so much flak from people that they have made acxiom’s about the data so you can look yourself up. Go ahead and do it, then opt-out.
- Epsilon.com AKA Abacus. They have a whole page about opting-out from them, but if you only want to opt-out of snail mail, email them here firstname.lastname@example.org
- LexisNexis opt-out of direct marking here.
- ebureau opt-out here
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.
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 email@example.com or call (
Mail Revenge: Make them pay for wasting your time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.