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Of the mail you receive—both electronic and otherwise—how much is legit, and how much is junk? That’s what we thought. According to various sources, something like 90 percent of all email is spam, and direct-marketing mail makes up more than half of U.S. Post Office volume. Then there are telemarketers. (Remember them?) Here’s how to lighten the load.
This is for you: If you’re overwhelmed by junk mail, junk email, and unwanted telephone calls.
Cost: Varies, depending on the services you use and whether you’d like to donate to the services that are free. (But probably $20 or less.)
Hands-on time: Varies, depending on how many services you decide to unsubscribe from
Total time: Same
What you’ll need:
- An Internet-connected computer
- Some idea of the catalogs and junk mail senders you’d like to block
What to do:
1. Put all of your phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry to prevent telemarketers from contacting you. Note: If you’ve done business with or donated to an organization, they still have permission to contact you unless you expressly ask the company to take you off its calling list.
2. Consider a service like CatalogChoice.org to remove your name from catalog and other direct mailing lists. Remove yourself from specific catalogs for free, and remove yourself from all direct mail marketing lists for a $20 annual fee.
Read on for more.
3. You can also fight junk mail via the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service. Opt in or out of categories such as credit offers, catalogs, and magazine offers, or opt out company by company.
4. If your credit card companies frequently send you marketing materials or balance transfer checks, call them and ask to be removed from those mailing lists.
5. Stop credit card promotional mailings by calling 888-5-OPT-OUT (888-567-8688, for those of you with smartphones). Or visit OptOutPrescreen.com.
6. If you’ve been opted in to email marketing from specific vendors, look for the link on emails from them that allows you to unsubscribe. For most, it takes only one or two clicks to accomplish this.
7. To prevent receiving spam at your primary email address, don’t use the address to register on websites. Instead, create a separate address (such as BobSmithSpam@WhateverEmail.com) and forward it to your main email account. Use that address to register for online sites (newspapers, retailers, etc.), and if that address gets sold or accessed by a spammer, you can simply unforward it and create another one. Gmail offers free forwarding for its email accounts, and Yahoo offers forwarding for its premium accounts, as well as the option of creating alias addresses that forward to your main address. (Cost: $20 per year.)
8. If you’re being bombarded by donation requests from an organization you do actually donate to, consider asking them to send you fewer (or even once-a-year) solicitations. Here, a sample letter from the American Institute on Philanthropy.
9. The variety of ways to remove your name from different lists is almost endless. See below for some useful links with even more info.
10. Be patient. It can take weeks or even months for a removal request to take effect.
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