5/30/2012 1:03 PM ET|
7 sure ways to stop junk mail
Is your mailbox inundated with direct-marketing materials? You can dry up the flood -- if you choose the right strategies.
Stopping junk mail is tough for a reason. Companies view virtually everything about you as a commodity to be sold or traded.
That includes your name and address, your age and an estimate of your income, the size of your mortgage and what you just bought on their websites or in their stores, and how much you spent there.
You may think the fact that you just purchased a swimsuit or a toy or a truss is your own bleeping business, but it's not. The retailer thinks your information is part of its business. It may share what it gleans about you with other retailers in huge databases known as co-ops that exist to help companies prospect for consumers. The retailer may sell your information to database brokers, who in turn sell it to other companies.
You don't have much of a say in this. Financial companies are required to send annual opt-out notices so customers can exclude themselves from all this sharing and trading. Other types of companies are not. There's no "don't trade me, bro" option to click when you're checking out.
That leads to an onslaught of marketers trying to grab your attention and mailboxes stuffed with junk. Many people try to fight back against this ambush. But some of the methods they try don't work. For instance, they:
Refuse to buy online. Sorry, but junk mail existed long before the Internet. Online purchases make it easy for retailers, who are prohibited from harvesting information from credit cards, to learn your address and other details about you. But companies have other methods of gleaning information, from loyalty cards to contest forms to magazine subscription databases. Public records provide a wealth of information about you as well. If you buy a home, get married, have a kid or file for bankruptcy, those events are recorded in public databases that are mined by marketers.
Even if you could somehow manage to stay off the radar, the Postal Service can find you. Thanks to the Postal Service's new "Every Door Direct Mail," businesses can send their ads to every home in a neighborhood. "Postage is as low as 14.5¢ per piece -- and you don't even need to know names or street addresses," the Postal Service crows on its website.
Use a prepaid envelope to opt out. "Any junk mail that has a prepaid return envelope, I put all their junk in that prepaid envelope and mail it back," one of my Facebook fans wrote. "Let them pay the postage, they usually get the idea."
Except they don't. The arm of the company that processes the returned envelopes is usually separate from the arm that handles the mailing list. Even if you pack the envelope with heavy stuff, hoping to cost the company more in postage, your protest typically will go nowhere other than the round file.
"You're sending it to the wrong spot," said Chuck Teller, the executive director of opt-out site Catalog Choice. "It feels good, but it doesn't work."
Ask to be taken off their mailing lists. Actually, this can work, although it's a hassle to call each company individually. The problem is the bad apples: the companies that ignore your requests, or worse.
Here's an illustration. Catalog Choice creates a unique email identity for each request it mails to companies on behalf of consumers. The mailbox that handles these requests has more than 650,000 responses, almost all of them spam, Teller said. In other words, companies are responding to the opt-out emails by sending more marketing messages.
"Email systems are messy, and most companies aren't being malicious," Teller said. "But we also can see Company A taking our opt-out email and selling (the email address) to Company B."
So what can you do that will make a real dent in the junk mail you receive? Here are seven options that work:
1. Opt out of (most) credit and insurance offers.OptOutPrescreen.com, operated by the major credit bureaus, allows you to remove yourself from the marketing lists the bureaus sell to lenders and insurance companies. You can delete yourself from these lists for five years at a time using the online form. To remove yourself permanently, you have to print out a form and mail it in. You have to supply your name and address.
The site suggests you also provide your Social Security number and birth date "to help to ensure that we can successfully process your request." Since the bureaus organize their databases using your Social Security number and birth date as identifiers, you probably want to provide those if you're serious about cutting down your junk mail. You'll still get offers, especially from companies that get your information from other sources. Still, you should see a noticeable decline in credit- and insurance-related junk mail, particularly if you've been inundated with it.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
The object of most spamcalls is the quick close. What is great fun is to start saying yes to most of the questions asked and if whatever they are selling requires reading a few minutes of back and forth ask for the braille edition.
Listen for a hollow sound or a pause after saying hello or mushi-mushi. Most of the time they will ask to speak to the name listed in the phone directory. Stall the caller, ask stupid questions, tell them to hang on and lay the pnone down. If the call is automated and requires entering a numerical, push anything but what they ask for.
Tell them you have Tourettes and use every foul epithet imaginable. No matter the gender of the caller tap the mouthpiece of the transciever and ask if they mind if you masturbate during the conversation.
Ask for the callers first and last name and have them spell it. Also ask for thier SSN.
Never buy anything from a phone source. If it ain't in writing it ain't worth a dime.
If everyone in the world would forward unwanted emails from companies back to that companies Officer's email accounts or whatever accounts are available on line, some of this would stop.
The other fun thing is to always state your birthday as 1/1/1900 or a fake street address or set up a never opened junk email address. Never give anyone information about yourself that you dont have to. While some companies will get real information out of necessity, the amount of false information about you that will eventually be floating around confuses everyone and makes the reason for collecting the information less valuable. It is really fun to put a fake social security number and a fake birthday or name out there. Always give false information whenever and whereever you can.
Cause confusion, this is the best way.
If you see a 800 number, or an area you don't recognize don't answer the phone. If you answer
it lets them know that this is a good phone number. They might not call you again, but they will
sell your number to other people. Sadly there is nothing we can do about this. Same goes
for junk mail. Never reply or opt out. This also works for collections agencies. Don't talk to them. Period.
Actually, stuffing the junk mail into their prepaid return envelope does work. I have done this with many of the ones I used to recieve, and now I hardly get any, maybe 3 a week.
As for telemarketers, especially those selling something for the home, I'll let them go through their entire pitch, then tell them 'Gee, that sounds great, but you'll have to get it approved with my landlord first.' Or those requesting donations for whatever charity, I tell them 'Gee, I'm kinda broke right now, but I could donate some time to help out', I always get told 'no, thats alright, we just need financial donations'. Do this a few times and tada, no more telemarketer calls. Both work like a charm.
i tap the return postage to abox and put full of rocks, and send 30 lbs of rocks gets the point by. i get no junk mail. it works. make sure they have your address.
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