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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fighting Spam

I hate spam; both the meat and the junk. Well, I've successfully eliminated most of my telephone, postal, and email spam. This is written from a U.S. perspective, so if you live elsewhere, you'll have to look elsewhere for help (sorry). Here's what to do:

1. Opt-out from mailing spam
This is not as straightforward as you'd think, but I don't know why I didn't do it sooner. Most junk mail comes from advertisers who get their information from credit beuros, who are happy to sell your information to just about anyone. The good news is that you can plug the hole that the source.

To reduce total spam volume (this does work, BTW), it costs you $1.00 to register with Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Consumers service (supposedly this is to enhance legitimacy?). It's probably to keep them from getting repeated requests by impatient consumers who can't wait the required 60 to 90 days. Alternatively, you can print a form and send a check or money order.

To Opt-out of pre-screened credit offers (big ID theft contributor here), call 1-888-5OptOut (1-888-567-8688) or visit This really does work; I don't get them anymore.

Another good place to go is Here, you can specifically opt out of catalog mailings that you don't want and just throw away anyway. You can also report an agency that does not adhere to the mailing list.

2. Layers of email spam prevention
I have an email address that I give to the outside world. I call it my "spam me" address and it happens to be the one in my bio. Well, any email sent there (directed to me) that is not picked up by Gmail's spam filters is forwarded to my real (personal) email address. The result is not much spam.

The other first line of defense is to opt out of email mailing lists. This will prevent legitimate email spam, so this won't help for most of the spam you get.

3. Call me not!
Ah, the Do Not Call registry. This seemed too good to be true, but it does in fact work. I haven't received a telemarketing call in almost three years now. So if you haven't done it, do it now:

Visit, or call 1-888-382-1222. This service is free and is good for 5 years.

Also, there was a rumor floating on the Internet that telemarketers were going to start calling cell phones (thus causing unwanted charges, etc.) and that you needed to register your cell phone number. Well, this is a myth - they still can't call you and you should report them if they do. But if it makes you feel any better, you can still register your cell number.

4. Report evil wrongdoers

See my other post about reporting email spam.

Here's information from the FCC website on how to report telemarketers. They spell out everything they need from you to make your report useful. It's important to know what you need before you have to report it so you make sure to get all the required information.

5. More information?
There is more information about other special cases such as remove deceased persons' names from marketing lists, at the DMA Consumer Assistance website.

So that's about it. Spam should be (within a couple of months) history. Now, the DMA is not the only advertising firm out there, but they are the oldest and largest. So, this will go a long way towards saving a tree by not turning it into junk mail in your in box. Won't it be nice to just get mail that's actually stuff you want?

If you have any success stories or tips, please comment!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your easy-to-understand steps. I followed them a little while ago and have noticed a big drop in junk mail! I get the Sunday paper to get my ads now, and I think my mail carrier is happier with me too!