I didn’t request this junk mail catalogue. I didn’t order anything from this company or agree to be on their mailing list — yet, somehow, I am. Junk mail is the same thing as spam email — you buy or sign up for something and the company sells your information to another company, who sells it to someone else, and so on.
And I’m sick of it. All that paper — those poor trees! Not to mention the carbon footprint of sending unwanted coupons, credit card offers, insurance solicitations, and catalogues to me and every other person who never asked for them. So I did a little research and discovered that it takes just a few minutes and costs nothing to get off of junk mail lists. Let’s do this!
Note: If you have a small amount of catalogues to opt out of, the entire process that I describe below should take less than 20 minutes. Catalogues are the only type of junk mail that are processed individually.
STEP ONE: OPT OUT OF JUNK MAIL
First stop: OptOutPrescreen. This is how the credit reporting industry — think Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion — accepts and processes requests from consumers to opt in or out of offers for credit or insurance. Because of the Fair Credit Reporting Act — and under the guise of “consumer choice” — these companies are allowed to share your name with other companies that want to sell you credit or insurance. But they are also required to take your name off of these junk mail lists if you choose to opt out. Getting off of these lists can significantly cut down on your junk mail. So here’s what you do:
1. Choose to opt out for five years — or permanently.
2. Add your name and address. Note: The form will also request your social security number and date of birth, but these are not required fields and the opt out can be processed without this information.
3. Type the code on the screen into the security box.
4. Hit “confirm.”
5. Click “end session.”
That’s it! Next…
STEP TWO: CATALOGUE DROP
Managed by the nonprofit Story of Stuff, the mission of Catalogue Choice is to stop junk mail for good. It’s a free service that allows you to send a catalogue opt-out request through their website. Here’s how it works:
1. Gather all the junk mail catalogues gathering dust on your desk.
2. Sign up for an account with your name, email, and password.
3. Click the link in the email confirmation to activate your account.
4. Click “cancel a catalog” and search or find the catalogue on the list.
5. Click “opt out of this catalog.”
6. Create a profile under your name (this is confusing, not sure why this is included).
7. Add your name and address — just as they appear on the label.
8. Add the account number and key or source code from the catalogue — if you don’t have this information, just skip this step.
9. Add the reason that you’re opting out — “prefer not to answer” is fine, but I like to remind the company that I’m doing this for environmental reasons.
10. Click “confirm.”
11. Repeat the process for all your other catalogues. (Once you’ve set up your name and address the first time, the process becomes much faster.)
Want to speed things up? Take the next step.
STEP THREE: MAKE AN INFORMED CHOICE
Established in 1971, DMAchoice is another nonprofit designed to cut down on junk mail. Weirdly, the org is part of the Association of National Advertisers, which are the junk mailers themselves. It allows you to opt out from credit offers, catalogues, magazines, and “other mail” on one fell swoop — plus you can use it to opt out of junk email, too! The service is not free, but it’s just $2 for a 10-year period, which seems like a very good value to me. Here’s how it works:
1. Register as a new user with your name, email, address, and password.
2. Click “payment” and pay the $2 through PayPal or a credit card.
3. At this point, you will automatically be removed from the lists that catalogue companies, magazine publishers, and “other mail” producers use to find new customers. Note: Ignore the prompt to “manage credit offers,” as you have already done this in step one.
4. Click “review my choices” and a screen will show that you have asked to stop receiving catalogues from companies you haven’t purchased from, publishers you haven’t subscribed to, and mail offers from companies you haven’t donated to or purchased from.
5. If you want to change these preferences, go to your account and either choose “start offers” to begin receiving this type of mail again or to choose a specific company that you want to hear from. Click on the company, choose “contact customer service” and email them to be added back on to this company’s list.
6. You can track the choices you’ve made for different companies, which will appear in your account.
7. To opt out of junk email, go to the home screen and click “email opt out service” at the bottom (you don’t have to log in again), then enter up to three email addresses. Click the reCAPTCHA box and hit “submit.” Note: You have to click the links in the emails that DMAChoice sends to these accounts, to make sure your request is processed.
You can also register on behalf of a deceased person, or as a caretaker for somebody who does not want to receive junk mail or email.
STEP FOUR: NO MORE JUNK MAIL COUPONS
Coupon pack junk mail is the bane of my existence! Use valpak to get off their list — and you don’t even need to give them your name, just your address.
STEP FIVE: CELEBRATE!
Most of these services take weeks — if not months — to process, but eventually, your junk mail will slow to a trickle and then stop. Is it tedious to go through a stack of junk mail this way, entering in your contact information and source codes? Yup.
Will it give you great joy to put them in the recycling bin and know that you’ll never have to do that again? Abso-frickin-lutely.
Did you take these steps to opt out of junk mail and email? How soon did you see a difference in your mail box? I’d love to know, in comments below!