I personally really like getting things in the mail. What I don’t like is getting random offers for credit cards, mortgage refinancing, and other junk. Not only are these wasteful and annoying, they’re a big source of identity theft problems. Help save your sanity, your identity, your postman’s back, and the planet by opting out of junk mail with these websites:
1. The most important – www.optoutprescreen.com
This website helps you take yourself off lists for preapproved credit, auto loans, and other offers which use your credit score to determine the offer. These are called “firm offers,” but I have to wonder how often in reality they actually give you the featured card. I’ve received interesting credit card offers that I had no chance of actually qualifying for. You can opt out online for a period of five years, or you can do it by mail and opt out permanently. Once the five years are up, you can re-opt out.
Stopping this kind of mail is the most important, I think, because it closes a significant identity theft loophole. I have personally known people who were shocked to discover that a relative who had access to their mail had applied for and received credit cards through prescreened mail offers in their name. And unless you shred, someone going through the trash could do the same. Better to avoid the problem in the first place.
An interesting side note – although many credit card offers now include information on how to opt out of getting the offers, the vast majority of people do not actually notice this information on the offers, according to a study by the FTC. Spread the word!
2. Catalogs – www.catalogchoice.org
I love getting catalogs, but I frequently find that when I request a new one or buy something from a catalog I haven’t ordered from before, suddenly I’m getting a ton of new catalogs from sister companies. I have a small mailbox and, frequently around Christmas, it’s hard to sort the mail out from all these catalogs! In fact, junk mail constitutes the majority of physical mail we receive today and has a tremendous impact on the environment both from the trees we use to make the paper and the gas we use to move the mail around.
Register with this website and then sit down with the stack of the unwanted catalogs. By using the codes on the back of the catalog, the website can tell exactly who you are and get you off the list faster. I have to imagine that this benefits the companies as well – if you’re so tired of the catalog that you go through all these steps to get rid of it, it’s another dollar in their pockets for not mailing it out.
3. Direct marketing – www.dmachoice.org
This website is run by the Direct Marketing Association, which also has a vested interest in not wasting their money sending you junk you don’t want. About 80% of the direct marketers in the United States use this list and so it’ll get you off a lot of lists you never knew you were on. Like Catalog Choice, you’ll need some of your junk mail to enter in so they know what to remove you from, so keep a few weeks’ worth before you start.
4. Telemarketing – www.donotcall.gov
And of course, if you are STILL not on the Do Not Call list, go and join right now! Being on the list means most telemarketers cannot call you (after a grace period of a month after joining). And due to a new law passed in 2008, your phone number will remain on the list permanently so you don’t have to re-register. Plus, if they keep calling you, you can report them to the FTC. Win!
(photo credit: Casey Serin)