How to Keep Your Mailbox from Overflowing

With landfills overfilling and the rise of both the Internet and the green movement, it’s amazing how much unsolicited mail still arrives in mailboxes on a daily basis.  Let’s take a guess at what you’re going to see in your mailbox today:

  • Lawn Care Bargains (too bad you live in an apartment) – YES
  • Pre-approved Credit Card Offers – YES
  • Stacks of catalogs that you never ordered – YES
  • Mail from someone you actually know – NO

According to the U.S. Postal Service, Americans received over 85 billion pieces of advertising mail in 2009. More than 40% of junk mail is never even opened and ends up directly in landfills.  Way to protect the environment, marketing people!

While the growth of the Internet has reduced the number of deceptive advertising scams committed through regular mail (aka snail mail), identity theft is a growing problem and can easily be committed by stealing or diverting your mail.  Junk mail advertisers are probably selling your information RIGHT NOW without your knowledge or consent!  How did they get it?  Direct marketing companies buy your name and address from a number of sources, including warranty cards (who knew?), phone book entries, credit card companies, banks, and newspaper and magazine subscriptions.  Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “Do Not Mail Registry,” but there are things you can do to limit the junk mail coming to your home:

  1. Remove your info from some national mailing lists

According to the Direct Marketing Association, registering on its website can reduce your mail volume by 80%.  DMA represents over 3,600 companies world-wide: https://www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/home.action

  • Valassis/Red Plum, one of the country’s biggest coupon mailers, will remove you from their list for 5 years when you register here.
  • Catalog Choice, a nonprofit organization based in Berkley, Calif., allows you to register on its website to reduce the number of catalogs you receive.  They are also expanding their junk mail prevention efforts to include phone books, credit offers, and other types of junk mail: https://www.catalogchoice.org/
  • A number of companies will also work to remove your name from marketing lists for a fee.
  1. Opt-out of pre-screened credit card offers

Pre-screened credit card offers are the most risky when it comes to identity theft and pretty much ruining your life.  Don’t become the victim of a dumpster diving criminal – SHRED any mail that contains identifying information, especially pre-approved credit card offers.  Better yet, stop the stream of pre-approved credit by using the credit industry’s official opt-out registry:

To opt out, call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT or visit https://www.optoutprescreen.com

  1. Contact individual companies directly

Contacting individual companies is especially important for companies with whom you have an existing relationship.  Even if you register to opt out of the national mailing lists discussed above, companies who you do business with (e.g., your credit card company, an airline you fly, a retailer where you make purchases, a charity you donate to) may still advertise to you.  Obviously you’re not going to get out of paying bills but you may be able to prevent them from selling your information to others.

  • When you purchase or sign up with a company, check their privacy policy and look for an option to opt-out of their marketing efforts.
  • Ask directly that you be removed from any lists that are shared with partners and affiliates (or the rest of the planet).
  • Call or write to individual companies to remove your information from their mailing lists.
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