Effective ways you can reduce unwanted mail, emails, and calls

These USA.gov tips can help you curtail unwanted clutter

4/14/2015 1:00:00 PM

Effective ways you can reduce unwanted mail, emails, and calls

Taking Control of Your Unwanted Mail

What can you do about the growing pile of unwanted mail in your mailbox and unwelcome telemarketers on your phone? Actually there's a lot you can do. According to USA.gov, these tips can help controlling unwanted mail.
  • Tell companies you do business with to remove your name from customer lists they rent or sell to others. Look for information on how to opt out of marketing lists on sales materials, order forms and websites.
  • Utilize the services provided by the Direct Marketing Association (National Do Not Mail List FAQ) to remove you from most national telemarketing, mail and e-mail lists.
  • Call the credit reporting agencies' notification system at 1-888-567-8688. This will reduce the number of unsolicited credit and insurance offers you get. All three major credit bureaus participate in this program. You also may submit your request to opt out online.
  • Under U.S. Postal Service Rules, it is illegal to send mail that looks like it is from a government agency when it isn't. It is also illegal to send mail that looks like a bill when nothing was ordered, unless it clearly states it is not a bill. Report violations of this rule to the USPS. 

Opting Out

Tired of unwanted e-mail filling up your inbox? You can opt out of most unsolicited e-mail lists by going to the "unsubscribe" button, usually found at the bottom of the message. Some senders make the button difficult to find, so you may have to do some searching.
In addition, the Direct Marketing Association lets you opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for three years. You can register with this service for a small fee, but your registration only applies to organizations that use the association's Mail Preference Service. To register visit the DMA's website.

Do Not Call Registry

The National Do Not Call Registry gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls at home. Most telemarketers should not call your number once it has been on the registry for 31 days. If they do, you can file a complaint at this Website. You can register your home or mobile phone for free.
Know Your Rights
The federal government's Do Not Call (DNC) Registry allows you to permanently restrict telemarketing calls by registering your phone number at donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222. If you receive telemarketing calls after your number has been in the national registry for three months, you can file a complaint using the same web page and toll-free number.
The Federal Trade Commission advises that it is not necessary to register cell phone numbers on the DNC Registry despite e-mail claims circulating on the Internet telling you to do so.
Placing your number on this national registry will stop most telemarketing calls, but not all of them. Calls that are still permitted include those from:
  • Political Organizations
  • Charities
  • Telephone surveyors
  • Some insurance situations
  • Organizations with which you have a relationship 

A Federal Trade Commission rule defines what telemarketers can and cannot do when making a sales call. Callers must:
  • Provide the seller's name.
  • Disclose that the call is a sales call.
  • Tell you exactly what they're trying to sell.
  • Disclose the total cost and other terms of sale before you make any payment for the goods or services
  • Tell you if they don't allow refunds, exchanges or cancelations 

If a prize is involved, the caller must give you the odds of winning, inform you that no purchase is necessary, and tell you how to get instructions for entering without buying anything. It's illegal for telemarketers to:
  • Misrepresent what they're offering.
  • Call before 8 am or after 9 pm
  • Threaten, intimidate or harass you, or call again if you ask them not to. 

This FTC rule applies even when you receive a call from a telemarketer in another state or country. It also applies if you make a call to a company in another state or country in response to a mail solicitation.

The rule generally does not apply when you call to order from a catalog or in response to an ad on television or radio, or in a magazine or newspaper. It also does not apply to solicitations you receive by fax or e-mail. Be aware that certain types of businesses, including nonprofit organizations, investment brokers and advisors, banks, and other financial institutions, are exempt from the rule.
If you get a phone call from someone who says they are with your bank and/or credit company and they ask you to provide or confirm any personal information:
  • Do NOT answer any questions.
  • Hang up immediately.
  • Call your bank or credit company directly and tell them what happened. 

How To File A Complaint About A Sales Call
If you think a sales call is in violation of the Federal Trade Commission rule and want to file a complaint, use the online resource.
Text Message Spam
Spam text messages can be annoying, but did you know they are illegal? Some common scams use text message spam to lure you into revealing personal information in exchange for a “free gift”, like a gift card or vacation package.
How it works: In order to collect your gift, the message will instruct you to reply to the text with your personal information such as a bank account or your social security number. The spammer may charge your bank account so you can claim your “free gift” that you will probably never receive. In certain situations, spammers then sell your personal information to outside parties, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft.
Take these steps to limit your chances of getting scammed:
  • Register your number on the National Do Not Call List.
  • Delete spam messages.
  • Never click on links provided in spam messages. Links often carry malware or send you to fake websites.
  • Never reply to these texts or give out your personal information.
  • Report the text spam to your cell phone carrier by forwarding the message to 7726 (SPAM).
  • Report any unwanted commercial text messages to the Federal Trade Commission.

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