Dramatically Reduce Junk Mail in 3 Easy Steps

While the amount of unsolicited direct mail offers have plummeted during the recession, I bet you’re still getting a lot more junk mail than you’d like.

Here are three sites you can visit to dramatically reduce your junk mail:
1. OptOutPrescreen.com – You’re all probably familiar with this site, it’s where you can register to opt out of “firm offers of credit or insurance.” When you sign up, you can opt out for five years or opt out permanently (and you can opt back in through the site). By opting out, you will no longer receive firm (preapproved/prescreened) offers of credit.
2. DMAchoice.org – The Direct Marketing Association has a mailing list that is used by DMA member merchants for direct mail, such as letters, flyers, brochures. Through their site, you can put your name on a do-not-mail list and all DMA members are required to stop marketing to consumers who opt out.
3. AbacusOptOut – Abacus, a division of Epsilon Data Services, has the largest database of mailing addresses for store and online catalogs. Companies join the “cooperative” by sharing information about their customers and transactions, which are then used to send out mailers.

One warning, companies with which you have a “business relationship” can still contact you with offers. You’ll have to directly request that the company stop sending you solicitations, they are not bound by the Do Not Mail list.

By putting yourself on a Do Not Mail list at each of those three services, you will see your junk mail drop dramatically. Each one should take you only a few minutes of time to complete. Think of all the trees you’ll be saving!

Jim writes about personal finance at Bargaineering.com.

Photo: scottandlesley

Comments

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  1. dialing_wand says:

    I find “Return to Sender” particularly effective. If not, it’s at least satisfying. Even more so when you’ve contact a certain company repeatedly to have them stop sending junk and they refuse to comply.

    In the case I’m vaguely talking about, I received a call not long after for my “current address.” I will leave it to your imaginations as to how that conversation unfolded.

    • dialing_wand says:

      @dialing_wand: contact=contacted…. morning typing… time for a little ride on the ol’ bike.

      • my secret identity says:

        @dialing_wand: That’s a good way to deal with them.

        Whenever I had College mail sent to me, I would rip up their application, write something vaguely profound (or something like “I like cupcakes”) on the inside of the envelope and use their paid for return postage to pay for it. I bet I pissed off plenty of people at around 50-100 colleges. (some repeat offenders)

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      @dialing_wand: I doubt “Return to sender” has much of an effect at all. Most of the junk mail is sent “Standard” or “Bulk-Rate” which doesn’t provide for actual return to sender, so your letter carrier probably ends up doing double duty by throwing it away for you. And the sender remains oblivious and keeos mailing you unwanted stuff.

      The old “Business reply envelope taped to a cinder block” trick is much more effective. But I’d still save that for the most egregious spammers.

  2. twophrasebark says:

    1. OptOutPrescreen.com

    This reduced my junk mail by approximately 95 percent. It is just glorious. Unless you want credit card and loan offers, I recommend this highly!

    • VitaminH says:

      @twophrasebark: Ditto. I did this about a year and a half ago and I went from getting about 2 “preapproved!” CC offers a day to 1-2 a month. A few it seems still slip through the cracks but I get almost no junk mail anymore, much to my (and my mail carrier’s) delight.

      • supercereal says:

        @VitaminH: Any companies that you already do business with are still going to be able to spam you (unless you directly contact them), but for the other 95% of junk mail, this works wonders.

  3. moore850 says:

    I did the optoutprescreen a while ago, and since I have received zero point zero offers. It’s awesome…. I can easily compare the diff to the offers my wife gets still. Once she’s on that, our mailbox will probably collect wildlife from disuse.

  4. I Love New Jersey says:

    If things come with a postage paid envelope send it back. Some people have been known to attach heavy things to them, such as bricks, cinder blocks, and assorted auto parts.

    • The Black Bird says:

      @I Love New Jersey: While I haven’t yet attached anything heavy to postage paid envelopes I do stuff them as much as I can and then mail them back to the offending company.

      Over the past 10 years or so I’ve gotten very few pieces of junk mail (3 or 4 a month) so I don’t get a chance to do that too often.

    • dragonfire81 says:

      @I Love New Jersey: I’d never considered that before, but that’s a hell of way to tell some company to leave you alone.

    • Chumas says:

      @I Love New Jersey: I’m one of the brick guys. The last time I did that involved sending back a cinder block to DeVry University after repeated attempts to be reasonable.

      • supercereal says:

        @Chumas: How exactly were you able to fit a cinder block into a 4×9″ first class envelope?

        • Skin Art Squared says:

          @supercereal: “How exactly were you able to fit a cinder block into a 4×9″ first class envelope?”

          That was my first thought too. After taking a minute to let it soak in, I figured it must be as simple as taping the envelope to the block, and scheduling a pickup. Probably some packaging is required though. I don’t see USPS picking up an unpackaged concrete block.

    • SRSco says:

      @I Love New Jersey:

      The reason I don’t want junk mail is because it’s a nuisance to lug it into my building from the street and it’s a waste of resources. Taking time to mail stuff back just makes it even more of a nuisance and a waste of resources.

    • ElPresidente408 says:

      @I Love New Jersey:

      This used to work, but the USPS caught on to this prank. If you try to mail something heavy with the pre-paid label, the post office will just toss it aside.

      You’re better off shredding the letter contents into confetti and mailing that

  5. color_guru says:

    “companies with which you have a “business relationship” can still contact you with offers”

    This is good to know. I have done 2 of the 3 above months ago but still get credit offers from one pesky company. Looks like I am going to have to contact them directly.

  6. Skin Art Squared says:

    Yep, I go the stuffing route too. Jam their pre-paid envelope with as much stuff as I can and still get it closed. (sometimes heavy duty tape is required). Seems to work. I wasn’t aware you could actually attach heavy items to them. I’ll definitely be trying that in the future. I’ve got a few concrete blocks and cases of old marble tile sitting around here.

    • supercereal says:

      @BZMedia: I don’t see how sending crap back really helps you, since they’ll have no idea who sent it. Continuing to spam people is undoubtedly more profitable than the costs of the few crazies who spam them back.

      Plus, I really don’t think the post office actually sends cinder blocks with envelopes randomly attached.

      • Skin Art Squared says:

        @supercereal: They know who it comes from. All that junk mail has your name on it. Yeah, I have no doubt that it’s profitable to spam people, and I have no illusion that they’re going to close up their business just because someone sends back a stuffed envelope on their dime. But as long as it gets them to remove me from the list, that’s all I wanted in the first place. I’m down to only a few pieces of junk mail a month now, so I know it’s working at least somewhat.

        • supercereal says:

          @BZMedia: Right, but it seems most people just use the “Business Reply” envelope, then stuff it with other random stuff. That envelope won’t have any of your information on it, and unless you send them back the form they originally sent you, they won’t know who you are. Plus, they’re not probably going to actually open and sort through a bulging 2″ thick envelope filled with other junk mail.

      • Ragman says:

        @supercereal: It’s not that it helps you, but it financially punishes them in a small way by making them pay for a few ounces of trash.

    • The Black Bird says:

      @BZMedia: That’s exactly how I look at it.

      On a side note I think I’m going to start collecting bricks and cardboard boxes and start sending them to those junk mailers.

  7. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    A trick to making sure it doesn’t actually enter your home (like you carrying it in) is to stand by the mailbox with a marker and put on each junk mail solicitation “return to sender” and put it back in right away, so you’re not shuffling the junk into the house to work on it later. And it helps to have a trashcan nearby too, so you can toss those worthless chain pizza coupons in there.

    My apartment has a handy trash bin next to the mailboxes so I can just toss stuff in there.

    • GuinevereRucker says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I do this, just keep a handy pen in your pocketses.

      Another thing I do is just call the company I get the spam from and tell them to remove me from the list. Takes a few minutes, and I make it abundantly clear that I never want to receive another piece of mail from them.

    • Ragman says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I have a No Soliciting sign on my door. The only person we actually gave permission to put stuff on our door was the pizza guy. He asked if he could since we were customers and he got paid per flier delivered.

  8. clarkbarr says:

    What really ticks me off every day is when I open my mailbox and there is always at least one 20 page piece of junk mail with offers from 20-30 places. I won’t even look at it, just toss it in the trash. I hope this stops them from coming!

  9. goodcow says:

    But if we all do this the USPS will have to raise prices even more. THINK OF THE USPS.

    • Skin Art Squared says:

      @goodcow: “But if we all do this the USPS will have to raise prices even more.”

      Why? If we all do this, wouldn’t that mean the USPS is doing even more business, versus you just throwing it in the trash? If anything it’s helping USPS.

    • Skin Art Squared says:

      @goodcow:

      Edit: Sorry, just occurred to me that you were referring to the Opt Out, not the mail back. Yeah, in that case, USPS is fucked.

  10. Jason says:

    I actually called AT&T and asked them to stop sending me junk mail. I do not have any dealings with them currently. They said they’d take me off their list and that it might take a few weeks. Fine. This week, I got an offer from AT&T sent to “Current Resident”. It seems I’ll continue to receive their garbage even thought it’s not technically being sent to me.

    • GuinevereRucker says:

      @Jason: I call the companies too, and would continue to call them until they removed me.

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @GuinevereRucker:

        It’s part of my job to do this at work but it doesn’t stop the catalogs because those lists get sold, resold and circulated right back to where they started. Some of them I’ve been able to stop but there are some that no matter what I do, they keep coming. I just pitch them now because nothing does any good.

        At home, I like to get catalogs. The credit stuff has slacked off (probably because I never have responded to it and may have fallen off the lists)but I still get catalogs. If I had any money, I’d actually buy stuff from some of them.

        I love catalogs. :)

    • Shoelace says:

      @Jason: AT&T has been the worst with regard to contacting me when I’ve repeatedly said no. Used to get frequent calls from them to switch to AT&T and I’d tell them every time to please put me on their ‘do not call’ list. Finally started documenting the calls, told their next caller so, and threatened to sue them. Was told it could take up to 30 days to get my name off the list and I responded that it would be their problem. Haven’t heard from them since.

      Wonder if you could use the ‘Return to Sender’ cinderblock approach with these offers.

  11. Five says:

    In Canada, you can post a notice on the outside of your mailbox (house delivery) or inside (community mailbox) saying you do not wish to receive advertisement mail. You can also put your name on the Do Not Contact Service. Although I don’t know how effective the latter is; hopefully more so than the Do Not Call list (which was sold to telemarketers shortly after it was implemented, driving my uncle insane).

    • GuinevereRucker says:

      @Five: That’s brilliant, like the DNC list but for snail mail!

      I vote we do that here. Think of the trees we’d save!

  12. zircon says:

    I’m not sure I want to use this DMAChoice website. It’s a site owned by direct marketers, and they want me to register and give them more of my personal information – email etc. Does this really seem like a good idea…?

    • brodie7838 says:

      @zircon:

      Well, I registered, and I don’t see anything offering to Opt Out of their mailing list. Anyone else have any luck?

      • brodie7838 says:

        @brodie7838:

        Found it:

        -My Account (Top)
        -Manage My Mail (Upper Left)
        -Stop All Catalogs (Middle Bottom of each section)
        -Click “Remove My Name” for each of the listed categories on the left: Credit Offers, Catalogs, Magazine Offers, & Other Mail Offers

    • Anonymous says:

      @zircon: The best thing for direct mail marketers is to get people that won’t respond to a mailing, off the list.

      The total cost to mail a piece, including postage, starts around $0.50 each and can go much higher. If I can refine a list to those most likely to buy, I have increased my return rate for the money spent.

      If you hate junk mail please get yourself off the list. It is better for everyone, except the post office.

    • greeky says:

      @zircon: You can trust DMAChoice. Since I signed up there a year ago, my bulk mail has almost completely disappeared. Bulk mailers actually would prefer to not send mail to people who would just throw it away. Now telemarketers on the other hand see things differently. They think they can turn that stubborn person into a customer with their charm.

  13. SacraBos says:

    But shredded junk mail makes great compost to fertilize your garden or raise worms for a side “live bait” business. Compressed, it makes for nice fire logs to help warm you home in the winter. Some flyers make great lining for bird cages, too. There’s lots of uses.

  14. Thomas Brooks says:

    “return to sender” does work well,but why not have a little fun to.I collect 4-8 “free offers”,then mixem up and return to the wrong sender.I do similar w/telemarketers.They allways ask “how are you”. I tell them how bad,surgeries,illnesses etc. untill I hear a “click”.p.s. Don”t givem a chance to get a word in…works everytime and I go away laughing.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I have a mailman with a HUGE attitude! The entire neighborhood is afraid of this dud.
    We’ve lived in our house for 2 yrs and continue to get the last owner’s mail. I’ve written “please forward” on the envelopes. He puts them back in our mailbox. After I did it a few times he started putting trash in my mailbox. (it’s a locking box, nobody else can get into the box). He’s also started tearing up mail/magazines we get. I guess he figures he’s “training” us as to what he will accept.
    Other neighbors have complained to the main postoffice and their mail has started showing up VERY late (weeks), and they get a bunch of mail that is wrong address, etc. Folks blocks away are STILL getting their mail.
    We don’t know how to get rid of this scary guy. Complaining seems to make it worse. Talk about “going postal”!

  16. samson says:

    With abacus send an email

    optoutprescreen put all info into online form.
    then print and mail for forever.

    for dm have to sign up
    DMAchoice.org. create an accout. then ? to use

  17. CFinWV says:

    I get a million solicitations from charities these days. You name it, they mail it to me. I wish they would set up a charity no-mail list, if they’re trying to raise money you’re definitely wasting it on me. I have charities that I donate to, I will not donate to one just because they send me return address labels with Ziggy on them. (Though I did love those labels…)

    One recently went so far as to include a t-shirt. It was for a charity I’ve never contributed to. Talk about a waste of money.

  18. krispykrink says:

    None of these “steps” do jack.

    Every single day of every week for the last 3 years I get crap from Bed, Bath and Beyond and AT&T, and just recently GEICO addressed to “Current Resident”. Since they’re not directly addressed to me, I can’t do a damned thing to stop them.

  19. Jonathan Kamens says:

    “One warning, companies with which you have a ‘business relationship’ can still contact you with offers. You’ll have to directly request that the company stop sending you solicitations, they are not bound by the Do Not Mail list.”

    Aye, there’s the rub. And another one is that if you donate to charities, you probably know by now that many charities don’t consider themselves bound by the Do Not Mail list either. Also, neither do political organizations.

    If you want to put a stop to *all* the junk mail, the odds are that you’re going to have to use emails, faxes and phone calls to contact individual senders and ask them to stop. Sometimes you’ll have to ask more than once. On rare occasions, you’ll have to get really, really nasty, like threatening to file a USPS Form 1500 on them ([www.wargs.com]) or embarrassing them on your blog ([blog.kamens.brookline.ma.us] [blog.kamens.brookline.ma.us] [blog.kamens.brookline.ma.us]).

    I’ve been contacting individual senders of junk mail and getting them to stop for a couple of years now, and I’ve managed to eliminate virtually all of the junk mail flowing into my mailbox. For more details on my strategy, see [blog.kamens.brookline.ma.us]

  20. Skipweasel says:

    In the UK we have the MPS – Mailing Preference Service. Sign up with them and only firms with whom you’ve had a business relationship can mail you – and they have to stop if you tell them to.
    It works – we get perhaps one bit of spurious mail a year.

    The same thing for the phone – the TPS is easy and quick to sign up to and stops everything except the occasional VOIPed in call from overseas telling you you’ve won a cruise – and they usually stop after a few goes.

  21. VodkaFish says:

    I’m moving and that alone should help; maybe 1-2 months in I’ll see how much I’m getting and sign up. There’s one cc company that sends me those checks all the time, despite asking them not to. I don’t want to cancel the card, but those things are fraud cases waiting to happen.

    • oneandone says:

      @VodkaFish: Watch out, because if you register a change of address with the post office, you may get some related junk mail and catalogs. And some fun coupons, if you like Ikea (that was my coupon last year).

      So far it’s just Crate & Barrel catalogs for me, but it might get on your nerves. I suspect it’s address-change related, since my boyfriend and I moved together, but he changed his address officially and I didn’t. Now all the catalogs we get are addressed to him.

      • greeky says:

        @oneandone: That is true. If you move and do a permanent mail forwarding/change of address form, the post office will actually sell your address information. I think if you only do a 6-month temporary change of address form then they do NOT sell your address. Not 100% sure of this, though. In most states the DMV will also sell your address to marketers. How do you like that?

  22. Ragman says:

    I’ve done the steps outlined above, in addition to one more important step(for credit card offers): Look on the application – some have addresses for correspondence that differs from what is on the reply envelope. I type up formal letters and send them to that address and put one in the reply envelope. I get maybe 3 or 4 card offers a year, and those are mostly for Discover Business, since we have two Discover cards already.

    • Ragman says:

      @Ragman: Meant to say “I get maybe 3 or 4 a year after doing all that”.

      It does take a year or so to work through the mailing lists, but it was worth it. I used to get the CC offers at least once a week.

  23. Jack Davidson says:

    Optoutprescreen requires your SSN? No thanks.

  24. xkevin108x says:

    I just played with OptOutPrescreen.com for about 5 minutes and it would never accept my entry for the capcha.

  25. BarefootGuy says:

    I heard a long time ago that you could ask the General Manager at your post office to stop delivering pieces addressed to “Resident” or the like.

    A couple months ago I asked the “nice lady” behind the counter at the post office if I could talk to the GM about that, and she got all in my face saying, “Well you can try, he ain’t gonna do it ’cause that junk mail pays our salaries!

  26. Chuck Teller says:

    Jim:

    Please add [catalogchoice.org] to your list of services. We provide a free mail preference service for over 1,000 catalog titles. We are a not-for-profit service connecting companies and consumers to reduce unwanted mail and go paperless.

    Chuck
    Catalog Choice

    • 4dawgswoof says:

      @Chuck Teller: I can vouch for catalog choice. I collected all of the catalogs that I did not wish to receive for about a month, then entered them all in Catalog Choice. Within a couple months I was no longer receiving those catalogs.

  27. greeky says:

    I have used optoutprescreen and dmachoice with great success. Did both about a year ago and my bulk mail has mostly disappeared. I think the most important one for people to do is the optoutprescreen, which filters out the pre-approved credit card offers. It is so easy for someone to steal your identity with those.

    The next step if you’re serious about reducing mail is to contact each business you have a relationship with. Your credit cards mostly, but also your utilities, and so forth. Ask to opt out of all marketing mail. The credit cards say you will have to opt out again in 5 yrs.

    For the lingering mail that you continue to get, I do this. In my own envelope, I send back the part of the mailing with my address circled and I write “moved, no forwarding address”. Then I put my own stamp on it and mail it back to them. My purpose is to stop the mail and the few cents for a stamp is worth it to me. You should be able to stop that last 5 percent of junk mail in under $10.

    Lastly, get a mailbox at the local UPS store and use that address for everything in the future. Take this step if you consider privacy worth paying for.

  28. mrearly2 says:

    I like getting junk mail…it makes me feel wanted…just before I disgustedly throw it in the trash.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been to the dmachoice website. If you want to be sure to stop most of the mail from coming to you be sure to go to the bottom of the web page when you choose a category of mail to stop. That’s where they have the “Stop all…” choices. In the catalogs section the choice is “Stop all catalogs”, in magazines it’s “Stop all magazines”, and in other mail it’s “Stop all other mail”. Otherwise you’re going to have to try to do it one at a time. “Stop all” is much easier and you can always directly contact the few companies that you might want to get information from.