As a child, I used to get so excited when I received something in the mail. Maybe it was due to the fact that the only time I would get mail was either my birthday or Christmas. It was not unusual to find a check from my Grandmother sandwiched between the card.
Now, as an adult, it is quite the opposite. The only mail I receive is either bills or junk mail. Neither of which I look forward to receiving. While there is not much I can do to eliminate the bills, there are a few things I can do to eliminate the junk mail. Another benefit of eliminating the junk mail is that it enables me to identify potential scams.
Junking junk mail
The first tool to eliminate a large portion of junk mail is the DMAchoice program from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). This program was created to give you control over what mail you receive.
The types of categories you may opt-out from receiving are credit card offers, catalogs, magazine offers (this includes subscription offers, newsletters, periodicals and other promotional mailings) and other mail offers (donation requests, bank offers, retail promotions and more). You can choose to opt-out of specific direct mail categories or all of the direct mail categories. Once registered, DMA forwards your category preference(s) to their 3,600 member organizations.
To register visit www.dmachoice.org and enter your information such as name, address and email address. There is no cost to register. You can also register by mail. Their website provides you with a form you can print and mail to DMA. The fee to register by mail is $1.00.
Caregivers also have an option to register on behalf of those in your care. Just visit Do Not Contact for Caretakers and follow the instructions.
Cancelling pre-approved credit offers
There is another source to opt-out of pre-approved credit card offers. While DMAchoice works with member organizations, this program works directly with the credit bureaus Experian, Equifax, TransUnion and Innovus.
To register for the program, visit OptOutPrescreen.com or call 888-567-8688. If you register online or by telephone, your registration is valid for five years. To make the registration permanent you will need send in the confirmation agreement. This agreement will be emailed to you when you register online or be mailed to you if you register by telephone.
Doing away with "Dear occupant" mail
In order to opt-out of generic mail, the type that says "Dear Occupant" or "Dear Resident," you must send a written request to the organization that sent you the generic solicitation. In the letter, provide your name and mailing address and state clearly that you wish to opt-out from receiving future mail.
Saying no to unsolicited calls
While junk mail is a nuisance, unsolicited telephone calls can be dangerous. Often scammers will call pretending to be from a legitimate organization in an attempt to get you to send money or provide your sensitive information.
One such scam is where the caller pretends to be from the IRS. He states that you owe money and if you do not pay within 30 seconds you will be arrested. They use fear and intimidation to get the victim to do what they want.
But how can you tell which calls are legitimate which are scams?
It is often difficult to make that determination based on the call alone. One way to reduce, if not eliminate, legitimate calls is to register for the national Do Not Call list. This is a result of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Once you have placed your home phone number(s) on the Do Not Call list, callers are prohibited from making telephone solicitations to you number.
This does not apply to organizations with which you currently conduct business (known as an established business relationship "ERB") or tax exempt organizations. You will still receive calls from your bank, calls soliciting donations and—everyone's favorite—political calls.
To register for this free service call 1-888-382-1222 from the telephone number you wish to register. You can also register online at: www.donotcall.gov. Registration with the Do Not Call list does not expire so there is no need to call again.
Telemarketers have 31 days from the date you registered to remove your information from their call list and stop calling you. If you receive a call after 31 days, notify the caller that you are on the national Do Not Call list and ask them to remove your contact information.If they continue to call you, then you can report them online at the Do Not Call List website. By law, organizations that are not tax exempt must remove a consumer's contact information from their call list when it is requested by the consumer.
Like I said, this will not eliminate all calls, but it will greatly reduce the number of legitimate, unsolicited calls.
Now you know that any calls from non-tax exempt organizations have a high probability of being a scam. For the calls you or your loved one may receive, here are a few signs to identify a scam:
- Caller has a heavy accent
- Caller is asking you to provide sensitive information
- Caller is threatening or bullying you
- Caller demands money
- Caller demands the funds in the form of a money order
- Caller refuses to remove your information from his call list
- Caller claims to be from the IRS and demands money or sensitive information
- Caller threatens your arrest if you do not comply
Also, don't be fooled by the callerID. CallerID can easily be manipulated using free online tools. I could call you and have the callerID read "IRS" or "police." It really is just that simple.
If you are in doubt when you receive an unsolicited telephone call, simply hang up the phone. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from your bank or credit card company, hang up and call your bank on the telephone number printed on your bank statement, or call the credit card company at the telephone number on the back of your credit card. If they claim to be from the IRS, you can visit the IRS website (www.irs.gov), and call them at the telephone number listed on the website. You get the idea.
Tackling unwanted text messages
For all of you smartphone users, if you receive spam-type text messages on your cell phone you can typically forward the text message to 7726. This could be different with your cell phone company, so check with them first. By forwarding the text message, you are notifying your cell phone carrier of the spam text. They will then add this to their identified spam messages list and attempt to block the sending number. This process is similar to identifying an unsolicited email as spam or junk mail. Once you have labeled it as junk mail, your email provider will block future emails from that sender from getting into your Inbox.
While you may not be able to block all potential frauds and scams, these tools will help you to eliminate the majority of the legitimate solicitations so all that remains are frauds and scams. At that point, you can simply toss the mail or hang up the telephone to take care of the rest.