2008-05-21 / Seniors

Junk Mail Relief:

Get Your Name Off Marketers' Mailing Lists

Dear Savvy Senior,

Can you give me some tips on how to reduce the mass junk mail and e-mail I receive? For some reason, my wife and I get bombarded with this stuff every day and are sick of it. What can you tell us?

Retied Targets

Dear Targets:

While most adults in the U.S. receive large amounts of junk mail, the biggest targets tend to be seniors. But there are steps you can take to avoid these invasions. Here's what you should know.

Junk Mail

To help you scrub your name and address from marketers' mailing lists, start with the Direct Marketing Association, which offers a consumer opt-out service at www.dmachoice.org/mps. This won't eliminate your junk mail because many direct mailers aren't association members, but it will reduce it. The fee for this service is $1. If you're willing to pay a little more, try Greendimes.com, a savvy resource that for $20 promises to reduce your junk mail up to 90 percent and will plant 10 trees on your behalf. Also, see 41pounds.org which charges $41 for a five-year anti-junk mail plan.

De-catalogue

To reduce or eliminate the paper catalogs you receive, go to Catalogchoice.org, a free new service that does the work for you. Stopthejunkmail.com is another good service, but charges a $20 fee. Other options include calling the catalog's tollfree number and requesting to be taken off its list - have the customer number from your mailing label handy when you call. Also, you can tear off the page with the mailing label and mail it to the retailer with a request to be removed from its mailing list.

Credit Card Offers

Are credit card offers clogging your mailbox? You can shut them down with the opt-out service run by the major credit bureaus at www.optoutprescreen.com or call 888-567-8688. Be prepared to key in your Social Security number and date of birth. You'll have the option of removing your name either for five years or permanently from pre-screened marketing lists sold to credit card companies and insurers.

You can also prevent financial institutions and other companies from sharing or selling information about you. Look for the privacy notices (sent once a year) that should come with your statements and follow their instructions. You should have to opt out only once with each institution.

Can the Spam

To cut down on the junk e-mail you receive, register your e-mail addresses at www.dmachoice.org/EMPS. Also, check your e-mail account to see if it provides a tool to filter out potential spam or a way to channel spam into a bulk e-mail folder. See www.ftc.gov/spam for more tips.

Telemarketing Protection

You're probably already aware of the "National Do Not Call Registry," which has helped millions of Americans reduce their telemarketing calls. If not, you can sign up at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222. If you already signed up, you don't need to re-register. Sign-ups were supposed to expire after five years, but the FTC expects to make registration permanent. The registry, however, will not stop calls by charities, politicians, survey takers or companies that have a prior business relationship with you. In addition to the national registry, many states operate their own do-not-call program. Go to www.ataconnect.org/public/compliance/d onotcallbystate.php for a list of state programs.

Be Stingy Be very picky about sharing your information. Every time you order something online, check the site's privacy policy and avoid sites that don't let you opt out of advertising or ones that are looking to share or sell your information to others. Also, be wary about signing up for freebies, sweepstakes or contests, online or off, because many are simply ploys to collect contact information for marketing purposes. And always write "no mailing list" on product warranties or rebates you send in.

Savvy Tips: Another good resource on this topic is the World Privacy Forum (www.worldprivacyforum.org/toptenopto ut.html), a nonprofit group that offers a top 10 list of opt-outs. And if identity theft concerns you, you can freeze your credit files by mailing a certified letter to the three credit bureaus. See www.financialprivacynow.org.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to "The NBC Today Show" and author of The Savvy Senior books.

Savvy Senior columnist Jim Miller will appear on "The NBC Today Show" Sunday, May 25, demonstrating comfy bicycles for aging baby boomers. The segment is scheduled to air between 8 and 9 a.m., local time. For more information, visit www.savvysenior.org or log on to www.todayshow.com.

The Gazette does not endorse the contents of The Savvy Senior. Check with professionals about the contents of this column.

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