Tired of dinner interruptions from telemarketers? Is your trash can about to break from the load of unwanted mail you throw away? It seems there's almost no way to entirely avoid unsolicited sales pitches, but there are ways to curb them significantly. Here's a refresher course to help quiet your evenings and lighten your mailbox.
The most effective and easiest way to curb telemarketing calls is to post your telephone number on the National Do-Not-Call Registry run by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Sign up online at www.donotcall.gov or call the FTC’s special toll-free phone number: 888-382-1222. It can take up to 31 days before you notice a reduction in unsolicited calls. Once registered, your number will remain on the list permanently.
You may as well register your cell phone number on the Do-Not-Call Registry, although FCC regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phone numbers. Automated dialers are standard in the industry, making it unlikely you will get a telemarketing call on your cell phone.
Keep in mind that the Do-Not-Call Registry doesn't guarantee all calls will stop. That's because a lot of companies are exempt from the do-not-call rules, including charities, survey researchers, political campaigns, companies that have an existing business relationship with you (or had one in the past 18 months), and companies you have given consent to call you. You may not know you even gave your consent; some marketers obtain it surreptitiously by sending solicitations or e-mails that, when you respond, allow them to call you.
To stop even more solicitations, you can ask a company or organization that calls you to put you on its company-specific do-not-call list. That company or organization is not supposed to call you afterward, even if you have an existing business relationship with it or if it is otherwise exempt.
If you want to get off as many national mailing lists as possible, first contact the Mail Preference Service of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). DMA members are responsible for roughly 80 percent of direct mail sent in the United States, and the association's members are required to honor the request of consumers who ask to be removed from mailing lists. Many other marketers who are not DMA members also honor these requests. Visit www.dmachoice.org to register (at no cost to you) and you will be removed from the DMA's database for three years, after which you will likely have to register again. As an alternative, you can choose specific categories of mail you do wish to receive, and can opt out of the others. The DMA also offers an e-mail opt-out service on the same site. The DMA site's FAQ's section offers information on specific situations (i.e. how to permanently remove a deceased person's name from the database).
To stop unsolicited credit offers you can "opt out" by signing onto a list operated by the four major credit-reporting bureaus. These bureaus, which are a source of mailing list information for banks and others marketing credit cards and insurance, will then no longer be able to provide your name to these marketers. To sign up, call 888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com. You have to provide certain personal information, including your home telephone number, Social Security number, and date of birth, but it's confidential. You have a choice to opt out for five years or permanently. You can always reverse your decision by using the same process—something you may want to do if you're looking for credit because sometimes the best terms come in pre-approved offers. Opting out this way won't stop all credit offers, however. You may still get solicitations from companies you do business with, such as your current credit card companies and from charities and alumni associations.
If after these steps you are still getting too much junk mail and have the time and energy to take additional steps, you can contact your phone company to ask that your data be taken off any lists it sells; avoid store loyalty cards, or don't give an accurate address or phone number when you sign up; and notify marketers, magazine publishers, charities, and others that you don't want your name and address to be sold or exchanged.