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Stop junk mail with a few easy steps
Piles of junk mailings can be anything but welcome. This resident of Atlanta saved a few days worth of junk mail offerings. (Pantagraph/PHOTO ILLUSTRATION STEVE SMEDLEY)

BLOOMINGTON - David Hill rarely gets unsolicited credit card offers these days.

While his mailbox use to overflow with about five offers a week, Hill, credit counseling coordinator at Chestnut Credit Counseling Services in Bloomington, maybe gets five a year now.

What's his secret?

About seven years ago, he called (888) 567-8688, the national opt-out request line, and requested his name be removed from the credit bureaus' mailing list.

"They will not sell your name when someone wants to purchase it for solicitation purpose. … It works," Hill said.

If you're tired of receiving credit card offers and other advertisements at home or in your e-mail inbox, you can take a few steps to drastically reduce the amount you get, said Stephanie Hendricks, director of public affairs for the New York-based Direct Marketing Association.

Reducing such mail gets rid of the annoyance of unwanted solicitations, but it also can help prevent identity theft. Conservationists also appreciate the opt-out programs because they save on paper waste.

To stop unwanted credit card and insurance offers, follow Hill's example and sign up with the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry. You can call the hotline or visit www.optoutprescreen.com. The four consumer credit reporting companies - Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion - will no longer provide your name for company mailing lists.

You can choose to remove your name for five years or permanently, and you can opt back in if you change your mind.

To reduce even more mail, visit the Direct Marketing Association's Web site, www.the-dma.org.

The New York-based organization has a mail preference service where people can request not to receive new customer offers in the mail from any of its 4,000 members, Hendricks said. The program has a $1 fee and is good for five years. About 5 million subscribers have reduced their junk mail up to 80 percent with the program, she said.

DBA members include most of the larger retail businesses and a number of smaller specialty companies that reach out to consumers directly through catalogs, e-mail marketing and telemarketing, Hendricks said.

Consumers also can fill out a separate form to reduce e-mail offers, she said.

If you want to take matters even more into your own hands, write, e-mail or call companies that have sent you unwanted mail and ask to be taken off of their mailing list.

"Most companies are generally happy to respond," Hendricks said. "They don't want to waste resources sending to people who aren't interested."

One obvious reason why people don't want to receive unsolicited mail is because they think it's junk. Some people don't want to waste their time looking at it, and some are concerned about environmental waste, Hendricks said.

Larger threats loom, as well.

"If people get your mail and complete the application, you could have a security risk, an identity theft problem," Hill said. "In addition, with some people, the constant offers can create a great temptation to get a credit card."

For some, that temptation may end in overspending and lead to debt, a snowball effect people should avoid, Hill said.

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