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Ask Stacy: How can I stop junk mail, emails and calls?

The bad news: There's no way to completely eliminate junk calls, mail and email. The good news: You can slow the flood to a trickle in a matter of minutes. Here's how.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 1, 2014 12:55PM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneySeems like every day my cellphone rings with a call from some company trying to sell me something or a politician dying to dish the dirt on an opposition. And somehow they all call when my arms are full of groceries or I'm in the middle of a meal.


Mailbox full of mail © CorbisIt appears I'm not the only one. Here's this week's reader question:

How can we get on the "do not call" list for those annoying political and advertising calls? -- Frank

Here's your definitive guide to narrowing down those annoying calls, mail and other intrusions into your life. Look it over, save it, then share it with your friends by using the "share" buttons below.


Crushing the credit offers

Hopefully you don't pick your plastic by responding to "preapproved" credit card offers you get in the mail. The way to get a credit card isn't to fall for a sales pitch, it's to invest a few minutes and shop them.


Any unsolicited offer saying you're preapproved is most likely a lie anyway. Banks buy lists of people with certain credit characteristics, then send them all offers saying they're "preapproved." You're not preapproved. You still have to apply, and the bank can still turn you down.


There are two ways to stop this mail. You can either opt out for five years, or forever.

  • To opt out for five years: Call 888-5-OPT-OUT (888-567-8688) or go to OptOutPrescreen.com.
  • To opt out forever: Go to OptOutPrescreen.com and jump through an extra hoop by completing a form, which you'll then have to mail in.

In either case, you'll have to provide personal information, like your name, phone number, Social Security number, and date of birth. Not to worry. According to the Federal Trade Commission, your information will be kept private.


If you'd prefer not to use the Internet, you can send a written request to permanently opt out. But you'll have to send it to four consumer reporting agencies, which will otherwise sell your name. You'll need to include the same information required online: name, phone number, Social Security number, and date of birth. Here are the addresses:


Experian
Opt Out
P.O. Box 919
Allen, TX 75013


TransUnion
Name Removal Option
P.O. Box 505
Woodlyn, PA 19094


Equifax
Options
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374


Innovis Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 495
Pittsburgh, PA 15230


Freezing the cold calls

The good news: You can stop many unsolicited calls simply by registering your phone number (cell or landline) with the National Do Not Call Registry.


The bad news: You can't stop them all.


Political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors, business to business callers and debt collectors aren't affected by the Do Not Call Registry. This is also true of companies you have a current business relationship with, although they're required to stop if you request it. The other category of caller you can’t stop unless you request it is those you've given written consent to call you.


Stop other calls by going to donotcall.gov and registering your personal number(s). You'll only need to provide a phone number and email address. Your number will appear in the registry forever, or until you remove it. If you'd prefer to register by phone, you can call 888-382-1222 from the number you're registering.


Your number will show up on the registry the next day, but telemarketers have 31 days to stop calling.


If you've forgotten whether you already registered your number, it's easy to check. Just go to the website, put in your number and email address, and they'll send you an email confirming your status. If you get unauthorized calls after you've been on the registry for 31 days, file a complaint here.


Also keep in mind that nearly all robocalls are illegal, even if your name isn't on the Do Not Call Registry, unless you've given written permission. So if you get a robocall, report it. (Automated calls from nonprofits, schools and political campaigns are exempt.)


You can learn more about the Do Not Call Registry here.


Slowing snail mail to a crawl

Like unsolicited sales calls, you can slow, but not stop, junk mail.


A private organization, the Direct Marketing Association, maintains a kind of "do not mail" list. It's called the Mail Preference Service. Putting your name on the list will keep DMA members from sending you unsolicited mail for five years. Mail from nonmembers, however, will continue.


There are two ways to register with DMA's Mail Preference Service. Either do it free at dmachoice.org, or send a written request, along with $1, to:


DMAchoice
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512


Banning spam

In addition to snail mail, the DMA also has an Email Preference Service. You register at the same site and it's good for six years.


As we all know only too well, however, we get unsolicited email, also known as spam, from lots of companies that aren't members of DMA or any other reputable organization.


According to a survey from privacy site Abine, the average person gets 105 spam emails daily. There's no way to eliminate it all, but there are two things you can do to reduce the flood to a trickle.


1. Rev up your spam filter. Nearly all popular email programs have filters for spam that can be adjusted. If you're getting a lot, check your settings and see if you can increase the sensitivity. To learn how, use the help function of your program, or simply search online for "reducing junk mail with (the name of your email program)."


2. Use "disposable" email addresses. A lot of spam comes from using your email address at websites that turn around and sell your name and other personal information. (In case you're wondering, Money Talks News doesn't do that.) Solution? Have one main email address for friends, family, work, etc., but have another for everything else. For example, if your regular email address is JaneDoe@gmail.com, create a new email address called JaneDoeShops@gmail.com. If you start getting a lot of spam to that address, simply delete it and start again with a new one.


As for the spam you're already getting at your main address, use the "help" on your email program or search the Web for instructions on how to block the sender of offending emails. (On Outlook, it’s as simple as right clicking on the email, then clicking "junk.")


If you're subscribed to email newsletters or get other regular emails you no longer wish to receive, the law requires that they contain an "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of every email. If they do, unsubscribe. If they don't, they're illegal. Block them.


More from Money Talks News

80Comments
Jul 4, 2014 7:20AM
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You can always return a load of junk mail back to them in the postage paid return envelope that they send you.  You can also fill out the forms they send you with fake names and information and let them waste time trying to figure it out.  You can also record that phone message..." I'm sorry, the number you called is not in service" and play it back when you pick up the phone.  I have picked up the phone and answered in a language I just made up at the time... they hang up and don't call back.

You can have a lot of fun sometime with these sales people that bother you.  Ask them what they are wearing and what their boob size is...then start panting and moaning . you get a click on the other end real quick.

Jul 3, 2014 11:54AM
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why are Political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors exempt?  They are the calls that I receive, tho I have never registered to vote.  They are using" robocalling because we never give our home phone number out plus I have to pay extra on my phone bill because I have a private number and my phone number is not to show up on a 411 call to operator.  I have also registered with all the above to stop spam mail and phone calls.  It worked for mail but not for phone!
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With junk mail I use the prepaid envelope to send back anything that doesnt have my name on it plus whatever other junk I have laying around. BUT I save it all in a box for a year or so before I drop a batch in the mail.... I want them to get 30-40 junk envelopes in one day.....
After awhile it actually becomes fun and I laugh each time I see junk mail in my mail box....

Phone calls I just answer the phone and then lay it down til they hang up... I figure this ties up there time so they cant go harass other people....

Jul 4, 2014 9:12AM
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To stop the credit card offers permanently , you just have to send in your private information including SS number huh?  "According to the FTC your information will be kept private" ;  and we should believe that , right ?  oh sure.....   SMH

Jul 4, 2014 12:48PM
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Junk mail isn't the problem, they pay for the government service to deliver it. The problem is telemarketing, they're using your personal privately paid for number to pedal they're business and that ain't right. An the NO Call BS doesn't work.
Jul 3, 2014 1:40PM
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Putting your name on do not call will help but it wont stop the calls. Every time you browse an item there may be a cookie planted in your computer and you will be hound to death.I have my own system,i use to get 40 to 60 junk e-mails every day. Do not open any junk mail delete delete delete every time and then every time you get ready to sign off click tools go in and delete cookies every day. I now only get about 7 or 8 junk mail every morning . If you ever get an insurance quote online get ready for a mess of phone calls. I never answer a call that shows up on caller ID as unknown number. If they dont want me calling them why are they calling me. If my caller ID shows a name or company i dont know i ignore. I now get about 2 or 3 calls a week.
Jul 4, 2014 10:35AM
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Have the post office stop offering those "Bulk Rate" package deals to those junk mailers.  If they would pay what we have to pay, then it would slow down
Jul 3, 2014 10:48AM
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Thanks for the tips! However, it might not help me at all. You see, I just got my new phone number but I'm already getting a surge of anonymous calls. I never got to answer any since the calls came when I was at work but after looking up the phone numbers at http://www.callercenter.com I found out they were debt collectors. I feel terrible. Seriously, the government has to come up with a better plan against all types of NUISANCE callers.
Jul 4, 2014 2:25PM
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how many telemarketers does it take to change a lightbulb?
   only one,but she has to do it while you're eating dinner.
Jul 4, 2014 9:17AM
Jul 4, 2014 2:31PM
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What many advertisers dont take into consideration is the fact that when you hound someone over and over they will look elsewhere for your product. There is a couple of certain insurance companies that dont know how to produce a good realistic commercial' iin fact i am so sick of their unrealistic stupid advertisements i would never buy from them. There is several great insurance companies in most everybodys area that has rates just as good as theirs or mabey even lower rates. The stupid telemarketers hounding people know they arent going to sell much and just keep calling hoping to get some senior citizen thats in bad health and they can con them into buying.We live in an unsettled world where theres a sucker on every corner and two waiting to con him.BUYERS BEWARE.
Jul 4, 2014 10:56PM
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The do not call registry doesn't seem to work.  They flaunt the law and call anyway.
Jul 4, 2014 12:31PM
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I slowed email spam down from 20 a day to 1-2 a day with the browser plug ins DisconnectMe, DoNotTrackMe and AdBlock Plus in FireFox.
They block those annoying cookies before they can make my computer "fat" lol

Jul 4, 2014 12:07PM
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You can always create a contact on your smart phone called: DO NOT ANSWER.  Every time you get a bogus call, just add the number to it.
Jul 4, 2014 9:20AM
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If we had a government for the people, we would not have to "opt out."  We would have a chance to "opt in" if we wanted.  But, again, I will not celebrate this fourth of July because a sorry ashed government and sorry ashed people in government has allowed the country to degenerate to a point I am ashamed of it.  I won't watch dumb ash parades, fireworks shows or any of that junk. Don't plan to watch the news unless I hear some country is attacking the US.  Then, I'll watch.
Jul 4, 2014 6:37PM
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You can be on the do not call list and it makes no difference. I have been on it since it started and I continually get calls from people wanting to reduce my credit payments, I have contacted the do not call people 3 times to no avail, I have even spoken to the people calling and explained that I pay my credit cards at the end of the month, so I pay no fees, but they still keep calling. I get the feeling that they don't really want to sell me anything, they just like to annoy people. I have been told that they can't be located because they move a lot or call from outside the country, which has to be bull$hit. They use telephone company equipment and one assumes they pay for the service monthly, so the telephone company knows who they are and where they're calling from. Why the do not call people can't eliminate this stuff is beyond me, they are being paid with our tax money, it would probably be a good way to save money by laying all of them off, no one would miss them.
Jul 4, 2014 8:39AM
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If it wasn't for junk mail, we would have no need for the post office. First-Class Mail brings in $34 billion while mail termed “Advertising” brings in $17.3 billion. A 2 to 1 ratio. Bottom line you can go through all these steps and still stop nothing. Or you can just deal with it as the minor inconvenience that it is. 
Jul 4, 2014 2:39PM
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ONe more crappy day wasted.  But, it is better than being at some fourht of July crap!!!  I"m home!!  Tomorrow, only the articles of today will be left.  the day will be gone. Thank you, God!!  We are NOT an "independent" nation!  I did not read that article.  Just read the headline and caption.  Don't even know what it said and I don't really care.  we are not independent.  that is a bald faced lie.  Half our goods now is from China!  How can it be said we are independent????  Ya'll believe that crap if you want.  I don't believe it.  I think, and hope, this rathole is on it's last frazzel string.  It is time some country install responsible leadership.
Jul 4, 2014 2:34PM
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It takes 3 telemarketers to pop popcorn. One holds the pan and the other two shake the stove.
Jul 6, 2014 9:50AM
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But, if not for junk mail, how is Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes supposed to contact me to let me know I'm thiiiiiiiiis close to being their next $10,000,000.00 winner??
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