5 On Your Side

Stopping the Junk Mail Deluge Can Be Done

Posted January 14, 2008 5:24 p.m. EST
Updated January 14, 2008 7:28 p.m. EST

Junk mail, paper catalogs and unsolicited credit-card offers clog our mailboxes. Consumer Reports shows some ways to stop the mailbox deluge and get to the mail you need to read.

Homeowner Rachel Skinner said she cringes every time she takes a pile of catalogs out to be recycled. More than 53 million trees are used to produce paper catalogs each year.

"I can get close to 20 catalogs a day. I get furniture catalogs, lots of children's clothing catalogs. I get bed and bath catalogs," Skinner said. "I'll get four different catalogs from one company."

Consumer Reports, however, says it is possible to opt out and choose not to receive catalogs in the mail – and even to end those seemingly endless credit-card solicitations.

"The Direct Marketing Association, which includes companies that send you catalogs, must take you off of their mailing list if you sign up for their Mail Preference Service,'" Urvashi Rangan, with Consumer Reports, said. "This includes subscription offers sent by companies like Consumer Reports."

All it takes is $1 and a quick trip to DMAConsumers.org. Click on the button labeled "Remove My Name From Those Lists." It will direct you to a one-page form you need to fill out to cut off the flow.

One call can stop all those pre-approved credit card offers. Dial 1-888-567-8688.

"A few years ago, consumers started realizing that they could get telemarketers to stop invading their dinner hour by signing up for 'Do Not Call' lists," Rangan said. "Now, they're taking it to the next level and saying, 'Stop invading my mailbox, too.'"

The automated phone system asks callers questions about their names, addresses and Social Security numbers and can take about 7 minutes to get through. It can often take at least a month for the "opt-out" to take effect.

Those still waiting to get off the mailing lists could take a cue from Skinner, who found a creative use for many of her catalogs.

"I use some of the catalogs, so the kids can cut out and make collages," Skinner said.