How to stop junk mail

I’ve been learning how to stop receiving junk mail, and I thought I’d share what I’ve learned.

Reducing Junk Mail

There are several services that will help you reduce your junk mail:

- GreenDimes offers a free basic service, but I decided to do their $20 one-time fee because it offered a few extra things I wanted. GreenDimes walks you through some easy steps that will reduce unsolicited mail, and also lets you decline catalogs. Each time you receive an unwanted catalog, you go to GreenDimes and type the name of the catalog in. GreenDimes takes care of removing you from that catalog’s mailing list. I’ve been quite happy with this service, especially since it’s a one-time fee.

- ProQuo is a free junk-mail reduction service. In the future, they intend to make money when consumers opt-in to request offers; ProQuo will make money from those advertisers. I tried this service today. It lets you stop many services with just a couple mouse clicks per service, but for about 50% of the marketers (maybe 10-15 of them) you have to print and send a letter or leave to an external website to complete a form. It’s still better than nothing though, because even if you’re lazy you can opt out of a lot of junk mail with just your mouse for free. Overall, the service is free, easy, and helps you opt out of a wide variety of lists.

- Catalog Choice is a site solely for opting out of catalogs. It doesn’t tackle things like credit card offers, PennySaver, or list brokers, but the site is clean with a really nice user interface. One of the founders, Daniel Katz, has been interviewed by Bill Moyers, so I trust that they’re a legit organization, even though their WHOIS information is private and there’s very little information about the group on their site. It sounds like three different environmental groups formed Catalog Choice as a non-profit. One piece of advice for Catalog Choice: please give a little more information about yourselves (e.g. history, founders, press) so that people can easily see that you’re legitimate.

- 41pounds.org charges $41 for five years of service. The name comes from the fact that they claim to block 41 pounds of junk mail per year for you. I haven’t tried this service.

Contacting services directly

- You can visit the webpage of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to opt-out online so that you don’t receive mail from companies that use DMA lists. The pretty url http://www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist takes you to the url https://www.dmachoice.org/MPS/proto1.php where you want to select option #3 (“Remove your name from DMA Member Prospect Lists”). You will have to provide a valid credit card number, but your credit card will not be charged.

- You can opt out of ADVO online.

Other options

- While you’re at it, why not place yourself on the “Do not call” list at www.donotcall.gov to prevent most telemarketers from calling you? All you need to give is your phone number and an email address, and you will be permanently opted out. Read more about the do-not-call list if you’re interested.

All these actions won’t eliminate junk mail completely, but it will prevent a lot of the junk from showing up in your mailbox. These aren’t affiliate links, just stuff that I think people will find handy. Good luck!

60 Responses to How to stop junk mail (Leave a comment)

  1. For those who live in the UK – register with the “Mailing Preference Service” to block most unwanted postal junk.

    http://www.mpsonline.org.uk/mpsr/mps_choosetype.html

    A key tip though – whenever someone asks for your address, tell them you want to ensure they don’t add you to any mailing lists or resell your details. Sometimes it can involve a bit of fuss as the staff rarely have to action a request and might not know how to do it, but in the UK at least, all data collectors have to register with the Information Commissioner and hence have to have opt-out facilities – by law.

  2. You may also want to check out http://www.privatecitizen.com/. They’ve been doing this for decades and got some fame in the 90s for teaching people how to sue telemarketers.

  3. When you buy something from a mail order catalog, your transaction is likely to be reported to Abacus, owned by DoubleClick Digital Advertising. Members of the Abacus Alliance, mostly catalog companies and publishing companies, contribute and exchange information about their customers. Your name may also be sold to other catalog and publishing companies. One way or another, when you ask for one catalog, you’re like to get catalogs from other companies as well.

    – Doesn’t Google own DoubleClick?

  4. Tim

    The junk mail that is addressed to me isn’t the junk mail problem I have– I can take car of that stuff.

    However the unaddressed flyers that they stick in every mailbox from local pizza shops, chinese restaurants, and the local supermarket make up the majority of my mail and there doesn’t appear to be any way to stop that trash.

  5. I prefer mailing back postage paid envelopes with marketing materials from other companies. I think this helps the post office which is struggling with low mail volume. and potentially keeps postal rates down for the rest of us. When these marketers open up the envelopes, I wonder if they curse the junk mail they just received as well.

  6. I’ve been using Catalog Choice & it works great. I wish there was a similar service for phone books. We get 4-5 sets of phone books every year, and I can’t remember the last time we used one.

  7. If you don’t want to sign up for these services, you can call the sender and asked to be removed from their list. Catalogs almost all have an online request to be removed.

    I no longer receive credit card offers using this method. It’s tedious, but works.

  8. I opted out of Advo a while back, but it didn’t really work well. Some weeks it doesn’t show up, but we still get it most weeks.

    I may be mistaken, but I think that the way Advo is supposed to work is that the little white address card (the one with the pictures of missing people on it) indicates who gets the Advo junk. When you opt out, they just stop printing a card with your address on it. However, as far as I can tell, the mail carrier is on such auto-pilot with the Advo stuff that he or she just stuffs one in everyone’s mailbox regardless of whether there’s an address card for them or not. I complained about this once to the postal service, but they were neither helpful nor sympathetic, so I gave up.

    It certainly doesn’t hurt to opt out, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work…

  9. Daniel

    I signed up with GreenDimes and also paid the $20 but so far non of the catalogs I tried to get rid of stopped arriving…

  10. Thanks for providing this helpful list. Although I delete most solicitations, there are many that I don’t want to cancel outright. I find creating filters very handy so they never hit my in-box to begin with. I can review and delete later at my leisure

  11. I like the way that on GreenDimes, I can simply opt out and then add on the random mails as I get them. This will be great after August when the holiday mail starts to build. Hey, will this stop the endless stream of postcards from Yahoo and MSN offering me free search credits for new accounts?! :)

  12. We have been using Mailroute for almost two years and it does a better than average job. We’re always looking for something better, as just lately, we’ve seen increased spam, mostly penny stock innuendo related.

  13. PIm

    How could you forget gmail? Gmail is filtering my e-mail very well and it is FREE. I’m using it for the rest of my e-mail accounts as well.

  14. heh, the service I mentioned before: http://www.freeidentityprotect.com also includes this feature :)

  15. https://www.optoutprescreen.com/

    supposedly lets you opt out of pre-screened credit card offers

    disclaimer: i haven’t tried it, no clue if it’s a scam, etc

  16. The best way to reduce junk is to register 2 free email accounts with hotmail or so and then you give one to your friends and the other you give for all the other companies that possibly could send spam or sell your email. After a while you change the spam email address with a new free account.

  17. Nathania Johnson

    When I worked at a nonprofit, I had to process direct marketing letters that were returned to us. Anything marked “return to sender” was taken out of our database.

    You can mark “return to sender” on UNOPENED mail and it will be delivered right back to the sender address. If you also put “remove,” organizations/companies are required to take your name of their list.

    And getting off of lists is key, since lists are sold and bought all the time.

  18. John

    I noticed an incredible reduction of credit card, loan applications etc after I registered for Lifelock (Lifelock.com) . I know it’s more expensive and some people seem to think it’s a silly service, because you can do a lot (or all) of the things they do yourself. However, one thing is for sure, it takes a lot less time to just pay for their service and be done with it and I can tell it makes a big difference.

  19. Matt –

    Way to go!

    As a freaky-scary environmentalist type myself (SEO/webmaster/engineer by day) I applaud your generous passage of PR to these fine, fine organizations. I have linked them from my little-ole-blog, but somehow I think your links might carry a bit more heft :-)

    I tried doing catalog reduction on my own a few years back. It was a lot of work, and met with some success … for a while. The problem was that after a few purchases (my wife, of course) they came back, like undead zombies in Scooby-Doo/any teen horror movie. Ahhhh!

    Then GreenDimes started, and a couple days later I was a customer.

    GreenDimes rules/rocks/kills. It will take a little while for the onslaught of catalogs to stop (they print the damnable things several mailings in advance). But after a few months, catalogs almost completely stopped. And with GreenDimes (unlike doing it on your own), they don’t come back. Occasionally, I get a new catalog, and add it to my account (just pick from a list for 99% of them), and that’s that.

    Silver bullet, baby.

    (Note. A colleague at work enjoys receiving certain catalogs like SmartHome, Geek-a-thon, and Victoria’s Secret, and is able to record his preference through the GreenDimes web interface).

    Our letter carrier (formerly: mailman) suddenly seemed to have a special place in his heart for us. At first we thought this was because we were cat people (unlike one of our neighbors whose dog was trained … to bark at/attack people in blue suits with bags).

    Then, we realized he love us because he no longer needed to do battle with our mailbox. The change is dramatic indeed. The few bills we got (paperless billing also kicks butt), and the occasional postcard or actual letter lightened his load. For the first time, he gave us a tip at Christmas. (Ok, the tip part was embellishment).

    I like GreenDimes because they are attempting to make a business out of what is a pretty simple online service (as demonstrated by the free CatalogChoice site). GreenDimes goes the extra mile, and for me, the $10 per year is totally worth it. And they are also working on creating other businesses from socially responsible demands.

    There are a few other consumer-oriented green businesses out there, notably TerraPass and, more on the web side, IdealBite.com.

    I am sure these sites could use some PR-lovin’ too :-)

    Happy mail-unboxing!

    Tom

  20. A few years ago I was creating a mock database for an address locator I was putting on my web site. I used celebrity names and a bunch of made of addresses but about half a dozen were my address. I forgot about it and never launched the directory but the spreadsheet was apparently indexable.

    A year later Lance Armstrong, Mariah Carey, and John Belushi were getting credit card offers sent to my address. I couldn’t figure out why it first but then made the connection.

    Those direct marketers are ruthless.

  21. Rupert Olson

    These all seem like good ways, but the way that provides the most enjoyment is to feed the piece of junk mail halfway into a shreader, then back it out and return it to the sender. They get the idea real fast…

  22. I can also recommend http://www.spamexperts.com/. Their MX-based service is not free, but blocks nearly all spam e-mails.

  23. I don’t know why my name suddenly changed into ‘Grant’, but it should have been ‘Sint’.

  24. Gidday,

    I am the co-owner of http://www.stopthejunkmail.com, we have been helping consumers stop unwanted postal junk mail since 2001. Our goal is to help consumers remove their name from as many mailing lists as possible therby protecting their privacy and eliminating unwanted solicitations. We handle all types of direct mail and you can logon at anytime to add more name removals.

  25. I can also recommend http://www.spamexperts.com/. Their MX-based service is not free (50 euros/year) but blocks (nearly) all spam.

  26. Matt,

    I can see more posts here about things that apply to a wide audience. I think this is great because a lot of people who read this blog are not quite so Ubuntu literate.

    You have such a neat position being exposed to so many people, things, and the vast amounts of data you pour through each day.

    When you write about something I personally take it as a very powerful recommendation. Simply your writing about the fact that you were going to go to wordcamp last year changed my life forever.

    Thanks for keeping us posted and up to date with posts like this.

    dk

  27. Postini is pretty good for corporate customers.. and Postini is owned by Google :)

  28. EGOL

    Thanks Matt, this post was a great public service. I didn’t know that Do Not Call Registry was permanent now. heh

    My junk mail volume went down enormously when I started using gmail and routed my mail through it. If you have contributed to that service, thank you!

    I wonder if there is a service to be taken off of the proselytizer routes?

  29. Diego

    Funny you post this today, as just today I’ve been seeing spam slip in to my GMail inbox. Something’s going on. Normally GMail’s great about sending it to the Spam folder.

    While on the subject; how about asking the GMail team to add an option to spam or automatically delete emails which are not of a chosen language? So I can choose to spam or delete emails which are not written in English. Certainly would get rid of a lot of the spam I get. Most is in Asian languages or Russian. Just a thought.

  30. very helpfull post hopefully this will help me out i get so much spam

  31. Matt, I think http://www.email-remover.com/ also is a good option when it comes to fighting against Junk emails and most importantly, its a freeware. Thanks for this informative post.

  32. Great post and loved the follow up comments as well, particularly the UK related ones. Thanks.

  33. For people in the UK, you can also stop unsolicited phone calls using the Telephone Preference Service. It’s free and you can register here:

    http://www.tpsonline.org.uk/tps/

  34. Considering the controversy with Google’s cookies and privacy – isn’t it a little ironic to complain about Junk Mail and Telemarketers.

    When you break it down to the bare reality – this is essentially no different than seeing Adwords or Adsense ads or having privacy information stored and used – except one is VIRTUAL marketing and the others are hard copy and direct contact.

    The bottom line is: every one is trying to make that mandatory dollar to survive – no man is an island and no one is holier than thou

  35. so I trust that they’re a legit organization, even though their WHOIS information is private and there’s very little information about the group on their site.

    Some of us simply did not want people having our home addresses found via “whois”, so we clicked the “private” box when we registered domains with Godaddy. Oh well…

  36. a well compiled list and one that can be used to stem the ever increasing problem with junk mail. Hats off to you Matt.

  37. Matt – thanks for the great review of our GreenDimes service! We have figured out some of the tricks to help get our customers removed from mailing lists. One thing you didn’t mention is that we also monitor lists monthly to make sure you don’t get put back on! If you do, we’ll take you off again (part of our ongoing service). We also service unlimited names per household with our Premium service — a great feature for variations in spelling of one’s name and former tenants as well.

    We launched a new blog this week: news.tonicgen.com — come on by and check it out!

    Dan
    Editor, TONIC News Network
    GreenDimes

  38. A bit off topic I know, but has anyone else noticed any high profile sites being penalised for black-hat links lately? It appears that film-maker and director Kevin Smith has been blacklisted for hidden links…

    http://searchblog.tamar.com/2008/07/kevin-smith-hit.html

    Matt – did you have any hand in this?

    Henry

  39. The Ox

    I for myself dont like using tools or programms to stop that junk n spam. I really work hard to solve that prob by using one main-adress for my friends, one for my office and clients, and for barking around in the WEB entering this one, where ever registration is needed.

    Exercing this, deviding these 3 accounts, i have just 2-5 Spammails a day on my main-account, filtered by the provider tools.

    Guess, thats the way, ordenary users can handle it in an easy was, too.
    Remember eldery, handicaped or just web-disliking ppl.

  40. Matt,

    I am right now trying Gmail as well as http://proquo.com/, as both filtering is free, but I am using Proquo for my company email id’s, and its really worthable, if at all its gets for some bucks in future.

    Thanks

  41. There are a few other ways that work wonders. Some states allow consumers to lock their credit report. If you are an ID theft victim, the FTC allows locking it for five years.

    Many companies get mailing lists based on profiles. A lot of the demographics come from your credit report. If your credit file is locked, you can’t be included in any profile. While it is great to do all this online, when you send snail mail, you have a record in case you get mail even after you have asked to be booted from the list.

    I also wrote every company listed on my credit report and opted out of their privacy policy. It took a lot of work. By the amount of mail I get is next to nothing. It’s just bills, statements, invoices and stuff from a few companies I want to remain in contact with.

  42. I don’t use commercial products to help with spam – I delete them at the server base via spam assassin, then bought a mac, and worked with filters. Gmail however, which is my least used email address is high spam – the filters are great and catches 99% of them, but I’m clueless as to how 5000 spam emails get to that box in a 30 day period.

  43. The best way to reduce spam is stop forwarding that annoying mail chains (send-this-mail-to-x-friends-or-you-will-die type) .

  44. Has anyone used EarthClass mail? I used to watch a show on Mojo (HD Station) about this startup based on the west coats. Don’t know how it panned out for them but they were also offering a “stop junk mail service.” Basically, you would get all your mail digitally and could opt-in to receive the old school paper stuff.

  45. Hi
    Anyone can suggest how to stop junk mail from contact us form. We are getting junk content filled by someone who is not actually seriously looking for our services. Just they put something in the form and submit it. Is there any way to stop that kind of visitors?

  46. Matt, thanks for this resource. After reading your post I poked around and found some amazing numbers on the environmental impact of junk mail — would you believe 2.6 million trees a year? Not to mention the fuel involved in making the paper, printing it and delivering it.

  47. Finally a useful post on the topic.
    Spam has been killing me these days.

    Thanks!

  48. You really need only spend $0 and register with the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service. That’s because:

    1. All legitimate direct marketers who use direct mail belong to the DMA and are required to suppress the MPS file in every merge/purge.

    2. Even non-DMA members use the MPS in their merge/purge because their list rental agreements usually require that they must suppress MPS hits, or they can’t rent outside lists.

    3. The scammers and spammers out there don’t belong to the DMA and don’t use legitimate list sources. And if they’re willing to operate outside the rules of the industry, what makes *anybody* think they’ll abide by any of these other groups?

    I’ve been a direct response marketer for over 18 years and have mailed literally billions of addressed solicitations over the years. And I, like my colleagues, LOVE the MPS service. It saved me money–somebody didn’t want to be solicited by me, and I didn’t want to waste money by marketing to them. Trust me, there are NO legitimate DR marketers that won’t abide by the DMA’s free (to the consumer) service.

  49. Garetjax

    To Stop Junk Mail I used MyJunkTree.com and it worked great. Simple service to use and it addressed it all. I was able to stop the misc. junk mail, credit card offers, catalogs, weekly copuons and even the phone books. Their system is set-up so I made teh choice of what i wanted stopped, god forbid if I stopped the Victoria’s Secret catalog. It was a simple and easy to use website. I was also able to sign up on teh Do Not Call Registry and order my credit report from thier site. Worth looking into.

  50. Your post inspired me to try and cancel delivery of PennySaver to my home. A search (you know where) turned up this site. Crossing my fingers…

  51. Steven

    I been using MyJunkTree .com site and I have found it to be very useful in stopping the catologs and the junk mail in a timely manner. A very nice site and the cost of membership is well worth it.

  52. Julie

    Where do I go to report a company that refuses to take mail-opt out requests seriously?

  53. Cranky_Old_Batt

    What I want to know is how on Earth do you stop political/non-profit junk mail? Yes, this is inspired by the deluge that many people are suffering because of the election, but it is an ongoing problem.

    I am especially angry because as I understand it, my tax dollars are paying for this waste of time and resources that ends up in my mail box an unwanted trash.

    I have tried to contact all of them directly myself and it seems to have made matters worse.

  54. Max

    Thanks for the post.

    You can also sign do not mail petition ( like Do Not Call National Petition)

    I did some search online and this is the best resource so far available online ( correct me if I am wrong). I have done this 5 months ago and my mailbox is literally empty ( I have paperless billing and also opted out from various mail lists) I check my mail twice a month now. It is beautiful. ( What a freedom).

    I even took the letter from samples provided and wrote it to a local Chinese restaurant that keeps putting fliers in my door. They stopped too in the whole subdivision.

    Save the time for yourself.

    http://awakening.weebly.com/stop-junk-mail.html

    I even opted out from the yellow book. What do I need it for, since the internet is right here.

  55. While E.

    This is good info! Now how about the root of all evil – Those that sell your personal information to identity thieves:

    http://www.encrypt-the-planet.com/optout.htm

  56. Hi, I was re-reading your post from last year. You might want to take Proquo off your post, they went out of business early last month. http://www.stopthejunkmail.com will be happy to support the proquo clients who are still looking for a method in which to opt out of postal junk mail. We have been in business for nearly 8 years now helping consumers reduce their direct mail. I was also wondering if you tried any of these services yourself?

  57. This is great for Australian users. We see to be getting hit hard by all sorts of callers, Multinational with call centres in India. Still companies like these who operate out of Australia must follow protocols set out here https://www.donotcall.gov.au/

    Just add your number and it’s listed on a do not call database.

    In addition if you have an unlisted number and it’s called say it unlisted by law they must remove you from their database.

  58. Tony D. Howell

    Normally I deal with junk mail by sending all the crap they send me right back in their own postage paid return envelope. Yes, I include my name because I want them to know who it came from so they don’t do it again. Most of the time I put whatever household trash I can cram in the envelope in it too. (The heavier it is, the more it costs for them to get it back.) I recently got a letter from Feed the Children today asking for money…I dealt with them by sending this letter taped to a large bubble-wrapped “gift”:

    Mr. Larry Jones
    Feed The Children
    P.O. Box 36
    Oklahoma, OK 73101-9989

    Dear Mr. Jones:

    I am writing today in response to your solicitation for a gift to help feed the children. I must say that I was surprised to receive such a request. First of all, I have registered my address with the Direct Marketing Association and requested to stop all such mail offers from coming to me. Second, due to the same economic crisis that you wrote about in your letter, I too am currently unemployed and have been for the past 18 months. I am one of those hard working Americans who has found himself out of work and out of money. Needless to say, I can barely afford to feed myself, let alone some children that I do not even know. Lastly, I have never done business with you or donated anything to you, so according to North Carolina General Statutes Section 14-453(10) you have sent me an unsolicited mailing. I do find it hard to believe that a reputable company would do such a thing.

    Instead of just tearing up your request and tossing it away, I actually read it. Then I became intrigued. I would really like to know where you could buy groceries to feed a family for a week for just $5. I truly want to know because I want to visit that grocery store and buy groceries for myself. At my local grocery store, they charge $5 for a watermelon.

    Later I began contemplating how I’ve never donated to ANY charitable organization. These thoughts nearly consumed my entire day and then I had what some might call an epiphany. I have a small garden in my backyard, and in that garden I grew some watermelons. While I simply cannot afford to send you $5, I thought I would do the next best thing. Since you have so graciously provided me with a postage paid envelope to send you a “gift”, I decided I would do so by attaching it to a very fine North Carolina organically grown watermelon, free from pesticides, chemicals, and growth hormones. I do apologize that the watermelon doesn’t fit in the envelope. I do hope it reaches you in the same condition it left me, and that maybe it too can feed a hungry family for a week.

    With Warmest Regards,

    Tony D. Howell

    PS I do hope you will remove me from any future mailings of this kind.

    Now I haven’t heard anything back from them, but if I do, I’ll be sure to post it here!

  59. Thanks for this info. Im glad there are some websites out there that I can actually try and solve this problem via. Its worrying too how so many people can now get hold of your email address.

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