How to Stop Junk Mail, Unwanted Catalogs, and Other Spam

If you’re like most people, over the years your name has ended up on a wide variety of direct marketing mailing lists, catalog lists, and telephone lists. Believe it or not, you can reduce your unwanted postal mail, catalogs, phone calls, and more to near zero with a relatively small amount of effort (I know because I’ve done it.)

Below you’ll find some steps you can take to free yourself from unsolicited mail and phone calls. If it seems like too much trouble or hassle, trust me – it’s worth the effort.

Stop Unwanted Catalogs

Unwanted catalogs fill up your mailbox and your recycle bin, and they’re an unnecessary expense for the merchant and the environment. Each year merchants mail out 19 billion catalogs, representing 53 million trees.

mb-quick-order-catalog-backCatalog Choice is the most effective tool I’ve found for stopping unwanted catalogs. This free service will send catalog opt-out requests on your behalf. Their database contains nearly 10,000 catalog titles including a wide variety of merchants and merchandise types.  Catalog Choice is operated by The Story of Stuff Project, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Berkeley, California.

Catalog Choice makes cancelling catalogs about as easy as it can be, although you do have to cancel them one at a time. If you have the key code and account number from the back of your catalog, opting-out is even faster and more accurate, but you can still cancel a catalog without this information.

Stop Unsolicited Junk Mail

mailboxThe Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service (MPS) lets you opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for five years. When you register with this service, your name goes into a “delete” file made available to direct-mail marketers and organizations. Registering will reduce most of your unsolicited mail.

DMAChoice.org classifies junk mail into four categories: Credit Offers, Catalogs, Magazine Offers and Other Mail Offers. You can request to start or stop receiving mail from individual companies within each category—or from an entire category at once. Keep in mind that you will need to login and renew your opt-out requests every five years.

Stop Credit Card and Insurance Offers

To stop receiving mail offering you pre-approved credit cards, automobile loans, home loans, and insurance, visit www.optoutprescreen.com. This site is the only internet website authorized by Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion for this purpose under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA.) You can either opt-out for five years just by filling out a web-based form, or you can opt-out permanently by mailing in a signed Permanent Opt-Out Election form.

Note that you will need to provide some personal information, including your Social Security number, to use this service (the credit reporting agencies already have this information – they just need you to provide it to help prove your identity.) Opting out from these sorts of offers will not affect your credit score. For more information about this service, see the Frequently Asked Questions document on their site.

Stop Commercial Phone Calls

To stop most telemarketing calls, place your number on the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry. Registration is free and applies to both landlines and cell phones. You can register your phone number via the web site or by calling toll-free – 1-888-382-1222 – from the phone number you wish to register. You should see a major reduction in telemarketer calls about 31 days after you register your number. If you continue to receive unsolicited telemarketing calls after registering your number, you can file a complaint at the FTC web site.

Note that the law allows some types of unsolicited phone calls even after you register your number, including calls from charities, government agencies, and survey organizations.

Other Miscellaneous Opt-Out Services

The list below includes opt-out links for a variety of other direct marketing mailers. Note that you will usually need to wait four to six weeks for your opt-out request to take effect: