Phone calls, emails, text messages, tweets, Snapchats, door-knockers, letters, direct messages … the list goes on. In today’s high-tech, socially-connected society, there are lots of ways to reach people.
The problem is, sometimes you don’t want to be reached and sometimes “they” don’t take the hint.
Does most of your mail end up in the garbage? Is your email inbox so inundated with spam that you can’t tell what’s real and what’s junk? Are you constantly getting phone calls at weird hours from numbers you don’t recognize?
The Federal Trade Commission has some great information on how to stop all of these unwanted communications. We’ll summarize and explore what you can do below:
Getting mail used to be fun. Now, it seems like it’s about 10% bills (sorry, not much we can do there) and 90% junk. There might be a catalog or a letter from Grandma mixed in there, but a lot of our mail is ending up in the trash (about 1.5 trees’ worth, per family, per year).
When it comes to stopping junk mail, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that companies that send you junk mail are under no obligation to stop, even if you ask them to. The good news is that most of them will and there are lots of ways to opt-out.
- Credit card offers – One of the few downsides to having good credit is that credit card companies want your business. They’re probably sending you lots of official-looking “You’re prequalified” offers with colorful envelopes, percent signs and dollar amounts on them. If you’re interested, go for it. If you want them to stop, you can opt-out of them for a period of five years, or even permanently through this website.
- Circulars and direct mail – The Direct Marketing Association, a trade group that represents companies that send direct mail, runs a website where consumers can update their preferences for what they receive. Learn more about it and update your direct mail preferences here. Remember, not everyone that sends you junk mail participates.
- Catalogs – Ever wonder why you’re receiving the catalogs you do? The whys aren’t important, what you do about it is. If you’re not interested in receiving a catalog anymore, you have a couple of options. First, consider contacting the company directly. Most of them won’t want to send you something you don’t want. You can also use services like Catalog Choice and have them do all of the work.
Don’t you hate seeing a notification that you have dozens of emails, only to find out most of them are for sketchy-looking dietary supplements?
Spam is an insidious enemy. The Zing Blog has a great article that goes in-depth on how to combat this enemy. But, here’s a summary:
If the sender is reputable
- Most marketers who send you email will honor your request to unsubscribe. If you recognize the company or have done business with them before, try that route.
- If you’re still receiving spam from reputable companies, try reaching out to them via social media or their customer service phone number and reiterating your request.
- Still no luck? Mark the email as spam in whatever email provider or software you use and move on.
If the sender looks suspicious
- If you get sketchy-looking email and there doesn’t appear to be a way to opt out, don’t reply! Unscrupulous companies and people don’t play by the same email marketing rules that most businesses do. Replying will just make them email you more.
- Use your email service’s “Report spam” function to remove future emails from the sender.
- Many email providers also have filtering capabilities that can allow you to automatically trash or report suspicious emails by words in their content.
- Never provide your personal information via an email. If someone you don’t know is trying to solicit money or personal information report that as a phishing attack via your email service or this website.
If you’re receiving unwanted phone calls on a regular basis, a good first step would be to register your phone numbers on the National Do Not Call List. Legitimate companies will stop calling your phone number a maximum of 31 days after the registration. Still if they persist:
- Inform the caller that your number is on the do not call list and that you do not want to be contacted again. Asking to take your number off their call list should immediately end the conversation and prevent it from happening again.
- If you get automated phone calls that leave unwanted messages, you need to be careful. Many times, these are left by illegitimate marketers who will not respect your requests to be removed. Calling them back will often increase the likelihood that they’ll contact you in the future.
- This article from The Consumerist explains why engaging these companies is a bad idea.
Eliminating unwanted communication entirely is probably not possible. But, with a little diligence and some knowledge of your rights, you can start to dramatically reduce message clutter.
What spam-busting tips do you have? Tell us all about them in the comments!