If you wish to stop receiving junk mail, then you need to go to the source and remove your name from marketing databases. Some of these can be handled one at a time, while others, such as the hundreds of data broker websites out there – will usually require a specialist service to do it on your behalf.
Credit reporting companies (also known as credit bureaux) gather personal information on consumers from banks and public records. Companies often don’t require your explicit permission when using this data to market credit card deals and other financial products to you. This is due to the terms, conditions and privacy policies you agreed to when opening certain financial accounts.
However, if you don’t wish to receive pre-approved credit card offers and other financial services deals, there is a simple way to opt out.
Optoutprescreen.com is the official opt out service provided by the big four consumer credit reporting agencies. You can either opt out via its website or you can call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) to start the process.
Opting out means your name is removed from the lists supplied by the main credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, Innovis and Transunion – to third party companies.
You can process a five-year opt out online, or a permanent opt out by mail.
Electronic five-year opt-out requires consumers to enter their name and address. In order to achieve the best results, the website will also ask for your social security number and birthday. However, these latter two details are not mandatory. Once you’ve completed and submitted the online form, it can take up to 5 days to process your opt out request.
For the mail in permanent opt-out, customers must also complete the same online form, before printing out and posting a signed Permanent Opt-Out Election form.
Effectiveness: While Opt Out Prescreen is effective in stopping your information appearing in some lists, this is not guaranteed to completely stop junk mail. You may still receive solicitation from sources that don’t use Consumer Credit Reporting Companies.
The website adds that the opt out “will not end solicitations from all local merchants, religious and charitable associations, professional and alumni associations, politicians, and companies with which you conduct business.”
To opt out of such platforms, it suggests that you go directly to each source and process an opt out with them individually.
Step 2 – Unsubscribe through DMA Choice
You can stop unwanted mail by using DMA Choice. This non-profit organization is run by the Data and Marketing Association. It offers an online tool to manage the type of direct mail that you receive. Unsubscribing from mailing lists is an important part of protecting your online information.
The DMA Choice website allows consumers to remove their details from several mailing lists. Customers can also customize their preferences and select entire categories like “advertisements” or “catalogs.” This can help you stop receiving junk mail from USPS.
In order to stop unwanted mail, consumers will need to register and pay a fee of $2 to the platform. This will cover the customer for 10-years. To sign up, go to the DMA Choice website and fill in your information, including name, email and home address. You will then need to pay the $2 service fee before accessing the platform.
Users can then proceed to select which categories to opt out of – that include Credit Offers, Catalogs, Magazine Offers and Other Mail Offers. You can also opt out of all of them if you prefer.
Effectiveness: Unsubscribing through DMA Choice only works for mail you receive as a “prospect”. What’s meant by this is that it’s a company you don’t have a prior relationship with and who you haven’t explicitly given your data to.
Therefore, if you are or have been a customer of a company that is sending you junk mail, for example your bank, you’ll still have to contact that company directly to request a mail opt-out.
Step 3 – Opt out of Catalog Choice
To stop unwanted mail, you can also sign up to Catalog Choice. This is another non-profit organization, run by The Story of Stuff Project, focused on stopping merchants sending unwanted mail.
Through this website, consumers can search a database of businesses that may have their personal information.
The signup process is simple. Customers simply need to enter their name and email address as well as agree to a confirmation email.
The process of opting out will vary between each business. In some cases, Catalog Choice can automatically process the opt out for you. In other instances, Catalog Choice will provide customers with a link or telephone number to process the opt out themselves.
Effectiveness: Catalog Choice has an extensive database of over 9,000 marketing catalogs, however there are some limitations to its effectiveness.
For example, Catalog Choice cannot stop catalog marketing that is addressed to “Current Resident”. That’s because the business is simply blanket mailing a certain area and does not have specific customer information on file.
What’s more, there is no law in the United States that requires businesses to process opt-out requests. That means Catalog Choice relies on the will of businesses to honor opt-outs. However, the company does record any businesses that are non-compliant with the help of its customers.
Step 4 – Unsubscribe from smaller direct marketers
Currently, there are no services that can completely stop all unwanted junk mail. However, the three steps above are a useful way to stop junk mail delivery from some of the biggest mailing lists.
There are still a number of smaller but no less persistent direct marketers that you should opt out of to reduce junk mail. This includes direct marketers like Valpak and coupon company RetailMeNot.
Valpak is a large-scale marketing company that claims to send coupons to over 41 million homes.
One of its most “popular” options is a blue envelope that offers recipients a chance to win money (along with plenty of advertisements).
California residents can remove themselves from these lists by completing this form on the Valpak website. And Nevada residents can opt out here. Residents from other states have less rights in this respect, but can still request to be removed from the mailing list by completing this opt-out form.
2. RetailMeNot and its sister site, Voucher Codes, also offer vouchers and discounts to US consumers via the mail.
RetailMeNot partnered with marketing company Valassis a few years ago. This means their opt-out process can be found on a third-party website. Follow this link and submit your email and home address for Valassis to begin the opt out process. Customers are warned it might take several weeks to stop receiving spam mail.
Effectiveness: Once processed, you should stop receiving junk mail from the above companies and their affiliates. But there are of course plenty of other similar companies out there that are also sending this type of unwanted mail.
Step 5 – Return unwanted junk mail to sender
Another way to limit unwanted junk mail is to complete a “return to sender” procedure. Refusing the mail will force USPS to return the junk mail at the sender’s own expense.
To do this, recipients should look for a return address printed on the envelope, or phrases such as “forwarding service requested”, or “address service requested”. Recipients should then write “Refused. Return to sender” on the envelope and simply post it back in the mail.
Head up, you cannot send the spam mail back if it doesn’t have an address or one of the returning phrases printed on it. Also, the envelope should remain unopened.
Effectiveness: This process does not guarantee that you’ll stop receiving unsolicited mail. What’s more, if the spam mail continues, you may have to take a more direct approach and write a request to stop sending spam mail.
Step 6 – Remove your information from all data broker platforms
Completing the above steps will reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive, but it definitely won’t stop it. Also, over time, your data will gradually make its way back onto many of these lists.
Data brokers are platforms that harvest your personal data from public sources without your knowledge. They can know everything from your name and address, to information about your extended family. And, the data broker sites happily sell your data to any advertisers that want it.
There are now hundreds of data broker sites in the US, so removing your data manually from these platforms just isn’t feasible for most people.
That’s why we launched DeleteMe, a service dedicated to removing your personal information from data broker platforms. Our service removes customer data from over 580 data brokers (full list here). What’s more, we rescan each data broker every three months to make sure customer data stays off these platforms. Our plans start from just $10.75 per month. Click here for more details.
Will Simonds runs Senior Marketing Operations at DeleteMe, and is a steadfast privacy advocate who has a resolute dedication to online privacy solutions and helping people regain their privacy.
Since joining DeleteMe in 2015, Will has worked in a number of different roles.
From launching the DeleteMe affiliate program, creating and maintaining hundreds of opt-out guides, fine-tuning DeleteMe’s customer communications and improving website conversion efficiency, Will lives and breathes DeleteMe.
Will earned his BBA from Endicott College.