HOWTO: Stop the Direct Marketers

Scott writes,

Over the last 3 years, I bought a new vehicle, and I completely refurnished an apartment, including appliances & electronics. Over the last 2 years, I’ve been inundated with crap mail for pre-approved credit offers, and warnings my warranties are about to expire, or that I “may be under insured,” etc. Usually, if they include a pre-paid envelope, I do the old rip it up & send it back thing, but I’d rather not get them to begin with.”

Here’s how to stop the bulk of the direct marketers:

  • Stop Telemarketers. Sign up with the National Do Not Call Registry.

  • Stop Junk Mail. Register with the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service. This puts you on ‘do not mail’ list, distributed regularily to all the DMA’s members. The DMA counts most of the major bulk mailers among its constituents.

  • Stop Pre-Screened Credit Card Offers. Call (888) 567-8688 or visit

Paranoid these tactics won’t work? Good. Read this snopes article we cribbed from which explains how and why these are viable steps and not scams.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Tonya says:

    Is it just me or do you find it distasteful that the DMA requests $5 to add your address via their online form and then create this fake sense of urgency to convince you to pay instead of using snail mail? Hey, it’s free to mail in your form but (HORRORS!) it will delay you getting on the list by as much as a month! As if I haven’t already been getting 40 pounds of junk mail every single day since the day I was born. Also, use the “Register by Mail (Takes Longer)” button and you get taken to a page with no form.

  2. nweaver says:

    The prescreen optout really REALLY works. These days, I only get credit card spam from the banks I bank with, rather than the “Enough paper to heat my house” which is what I used to get.

  3. Tonya says:

    Umm…. the comment hasn’t appeared so I’m not so convinced I hit the “post a comment (will take longer)” button. Forgive me if this shows up twice.
    Is it just me or do you find it distasteful that the DMA requests $5 to add your address via their online form and then create this fake sense of urgency to convince you to pay instead of using snail mail? Hey, it’s free to mail in your form but (HORRORS!) it will delay you getting on the list by as much as a month! As if I haven’t already been getting 40 pounds of junk mail every single day since the day I was born. Also, use the “sent it by mail button” and there actually no printable form..

  4. Ben Popken says:

    Tonya: The ‘Register By Mail’ button works. You have to fill in the online form above it before clicking.

  5. mrscolex says:

    Wow these are great tips. I’d never even heard of the last two.

  6. Andrew W says:

    Thank goodness for this info. I’m going to opt out right now. I almost never got junk mail until I bought my place (thereby making my address part of public record, yeah?). Now I get all sorts of false urgency insurance, anti-fraud, and refinancing mailings I have zero interest in.

    And a side note. I’m sick of being solicited by companies for at-a-cost fraud protection. I couldn’t activate my new bank card yesterday until I’d listened to a two-minute pitch about how I should pay for their fraud protection. My personal data is falling off *their* trucks, not mine.

  7. Chris H says:

    Hi All, at EPIC, we posted at “Top 11 Things You Can Do To Protect Your Privacy” that focuses on direct marketing. The above three are great steps, but there are other things you can do too.

  8. Scott says:

    There’s more info available on the FTC web site:

  9. airship says:

    My wife, my father, and my mother all died within a few months of each other two years ago. I still get tons of junk mail for all of them. The most distasteful to me are the ones advertising retirement homes to my dead parents. You’d think these companies would have some way to tell when their ‘prospects’ die! And if I want to stop it all, it looks like I have to sign up for each of them individually. Why can’t you just turn off all junk mail to one address? And why isn’t there a MANDATORY ‘no junk mail’ option for all? As I read this site, only members of their organization are obliged to stop junk mail when you request them to.

  10. Jen says:

    I’ve opted out all the above ways. It definitely helps, but I still get lots of junk directed to the current resident of my address via the post office. Does anyone know of a way to opt out of all that crap? Do I just need to offer my mail person some cash or is there something official I can do?

  11. caltonia says:

    I sent the us mail forms in (save that $5!), but I wanted to stop more than the completely unsolicited deliveries as well.

    So, I decided that I would gather all the offers from companies I had an “association” with in a box. One Saturday a month, I call the numbers on the forms.

    You know the number: it’s the 800 number on the bottom of the form that says “I accept.”

    However, after the sales rep finished through giving me their congratuations and asks for my information, I say: “I’m actually calling to have my name removed from your solicitations list. I never want to get anything from your company again.”

    They enter your data into the database — often using that same code number on the form to quickly find your record.

    At the end, they always say, “it will take 4-12 weeks for this to take effect, some mailings are enroute..”

    I always reply, “that’s fine. I’ll call you again next month, then.”

    I went through a couple of months of this, but it seems to have done the trick. I haven’t gotten a single unsolicited offer. Besides, it’s a fun way to spend your rainy Saturday afternoon.

  12. Chris H says:


    The DMA just started a Deceased Do Not Contact list, available online at:

    It only applies to DMA members. And of course, you have to pay a fee to sign up.

    What this is all pointing too is the need for a government-created do-not-mail registry, just like the do-not-call registry.

  13. lady brett says:

    These really work. I submitted my info, my husband’s info, and my mother-in-law’s info (she has a serious junk mail problem) several years ago and it’s really cut down on the calls and mail that we receive.

  14. SixSide says:

    Does anyone know of a way to stop receiving junk mail from supermarkets? I’ve signed up with DMA and that curtailed a bunch of junk mail, but I still get bi-weekly coupon mailings from Pavilions, Rite-Aid, Ralphs, etc… those to me are the most annoying! Any ideas how to stop getting those?


  15. bifyu says:

    It may make you feel a little better, but sending back the junk mail in the business reply envelopes won’t accomplish anything. The folks who open them are generally poorly paid wage slaves who will simply discard them. Your “feedback” will never make it back to anyone who controls the mailing lists.

    I get very little junk mail thanks to a combination of the DMA opt-out, which is only honored by DMA members (and they won’t disclose their membership), the pre-screened credit opt-out, being very careful about opt-out options available with places I do business with, and agressively following up with those that slip through the cracks.

    For the truly recalcitrant, there is USPS Form 1500, which is an application for a Prohibatory Order against a sender of materials you deem “erotically arousing or sexually provocative and therefore is a pandering advertisement.” The nice thing about this is that what is considered pandering is entirely at your discretion and not subject to interpretation or review, so they have no recourse if you decide that ads from Pavilions, Rite-Aid, or Ralphs are too risque for your tastes. This is the nuclear option though and I only use it as a last resort after at least making a good faith effort to contact them first and give them the opportunity to remove me from their list in some reasonable fashion.

  16. mikelite says:

    i detest the amount of personal information that’s collected these days. everytime you step up to a cash register these days, they’re asking for either your home phone, zip code or email. (i’m in nyc, so i like to give them old numbers and zip codes from other states in the midwest. screw you and your shopper profiles and demographics) If you want to return a damn lightbulb at Home Depot, you’ve got to give them your drivers license number! It makes my insides churn at the amount of privacy concerns that brings up.

    well, that was slightly off-topic, but anyhows, whenever I give over any sort of information, I’m always sure to ask them what the info is being collected for and to be put on a “Do not call or contact list” and a “Do not sell” list. I don’t know if it works or not, but at least I’m tryying I guess.