Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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ASK THE ATTORNEY GENERAL: How can I reduce the amount of junk mail that I receive?

mailbox Direct mail solicitations and advertisements make up roughly half of all the mail sent to consumers in the United States.  While many people enjoy receiving catalogs, coupons and other offers by mail, some consumers are overwhelmed by the amount of written material being sent to their homes.

If you want to give your shredder and recycling bin a break there are simple steps you can take to cut down on the amount of junk mail you receive.

  • Opt-out of Pre-screened Credit Offers
    You can choose not to receive offers for new credit cards and certain other unsolicited mailings by taking advantage of a free service offered by the major credit bureaus.  Call 1-888-5OptOut (1-888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com to stop these offers from coming to your home (Note: you will be asked to provide your Social Security Number so that your request can be matched with credit records maintained by the credit bureaus).
  • Limit the Information You Share About Yourself
    It seems like every warranty registration card you're asked to complete includes a string of requests for things like household income and other aspects of your personal life.  Did you know that this data is often passed along to marketers who target you based on your interests, lifestyle, and other facts about your personal life?  If you want to avoid these types of solicitations, don't provide any information except what is absolutely necessary to register your product (usually your name, address, and date of purchase).  Also ask that the information not be disclosed or shared with others.  Keep this in mind when entering contests or signing up for free or trial offers - you may be paying a price by giving up information about yourself.
  • Tell Others Not to Share Your Information
    Most companies have privacy policies and some businesses, including banks, are required to disclose those policies to you each year.  You do not need to wait until you receive these notices to tell the companies that you prefer not to have your information disclosed to third parties.  Contact your banks, your credit-card and insurance companies and let them know that you opt-out of having your information shared with others.  junk mail
  • Tell the Industry to Stop Writing to You
    The Direct Marketing Association ("DMA"), a trade group with more than 5,200 member companies, has established a voluntary system to stop mailings from its members from being sent to consumers enrolled in its Mail Preference Service.  For $1.00, consumers can sign up for the DMA's Mail Preference Service by sending a written request, along with their name, address, signature and check or money order for $1.00 payable to DMA to:

Mail Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 643
Carmel, New York 10512

You can also sign up online at https://www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/home.action

  • Watch Out for Scams
    Regardless of whether you want to reduce the amount of unsolicited mail sent to you, beware of common scams and other tactics intended to catch you off guard.  Bogus lottery letters continue to fill consumers' mailboxes.  In many cases, these scams include counterfeit checks which the recipient is asked to cash and then send the money abroad as "taxes" or "fees."  Never cash checks from someone you don't know or wire money in response to an unsolicited letter or phone call.  Also watch out for real checks with fine print or conditions on the back.  Some companies send consumers checks for small amounts hoping the consumer will cash it and unknowingly sign up for a service they do not want or need.  Finally, be on the lookout for offers that appear to be from the government or trusted groups or organizations.  Deceptive marketers have been known to use look-a-like solicitations to convince consumers to respond.

By taking some or all of these steps, you can significantly reduce the amount of unsolicited mail sent to your home.  If you have a consumer-related problem or dispute, contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555 or www.attorneygeneral.gov.