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The Easiest Ways to Opt Out of Telemarketing Calls, Junk Mail, and More

Tired of telemarketing calls interrupting your dinner and junk mail clogging up your mailbox? You're not alone. Since the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call Registry went into effect in October 2003, some 97 million phone numbers have been registered. If a telemarketer calls a number that's been placed on the list, they risk heavy fines if the violation is reported.

Stop Telemarketing Calls for Good

Telemarketers are surely one of the biggest intruders on our privacy--they make over 8 billion calls every year. But they don't do it for nothing. Out of an estimated 3,245 U.S. telemarketing bureaus, the telemarketing industry brought in over $11 billion in revenue in 2002, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Here's how to get telemarketers to stop calling you:

There are two ways to add your number to the list:

  • Online at

  • By calling 1-888-382-1222 (TTY 1-866-290-4236) from the number you want to register

Certain telemarketers are exempt and may still call numbers on the Registry. These include charities, politicians, telephone surveyors and businesses that have a prior relationship with the person they're calling (banks, airlines, phone-service providers, etc.). Businesses that you've given permission to call are also exempt.

Nonetheless, the registry is working. "Individuals who register find that the number of telemarketing calls they're getting approaches zero," says Beth Givens, director of the San Diego, California-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

Important Information to Regain Your Privacy

To stop telemarketing calls:

To stop junk mail:

  • Register your name with the Mail Preference Service online (it will cost $5).
  • Register for free by mail. Write to:

Mail Preference Service
c/o Direct Marketing Association
PO Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512

Say Goodbye to Junk Mail

Junk mail is more than an annoyance; it takes a toll on your time and the environment. Consider these statistics from the New American Dream, who has launched an anti-junk-mail campaign:

  • Each letter carrier of the U.S. Postal Service delivers 17.8 tons of bulk mail every year (there are 293,000 letter carriers).

  • It takes 24 trees to make one ton of paper.

  • The average American spends eight months opening bulk mail over his or her lifetime.

  • Some 44 percent of bulk mail is thrown away--without being opened.

There are various ways to stop junk mail from being sent to your home. Here's how:

Say goodbye to telemarketers. Register with the National Do Not Call Registry.

  • Write to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and register with their Mail Preference Service. DMA has a database of consumers who want to avoid unsolicited mail, and this will indicate that you want to be added to the list. Only members of DMA will be required to stop mailings to you.

    To register, mail a notecard with the date and your name, address and signature, saying you want to register your name with the Mail Preference Service, to:

    Mail Preference Service
    c/o Direct Marketing Association
    PO Box 643
    Carmel, NY 10512

    You can also register online, but they'll charge you $5 to do it.

  • New American Dream has an online form that will generate ready-to-send letters requesting your address be removed from mailing lists of various banks and credit card companies.

Financial institutions often share your information with dozens of companies, including third parties. However, you can opt out of these lists and tell them not to share your personal information. To do this takes time because you must contact each one individually. For banks, brokerages and insurance companies, this can be done by:

  • Visiting their Web site and looking for their "privacy information."

  • Calling the institution and opting out by phone.

  • Calling the institution and asking them to mail you an opt-out form.

Stop Unwanted E-mail

  • Junk e-mail, or spam, can easily clutter up your "Inbox" to the point where you can't even find the messages you need. The Federal Trade Commission suggests these tips to keep unsolicited e-mail to a minimum:

  • Use the e-mail filter that usually comes with your e-mail account. This will channel spam directly into a bulk-mail folder, rather than your "Inbox."

  • Avoid displaying your e-mail address in chat rooms, Web sites and membership directories, and be wary of sending it in to contests and other online offers.

  • Before submitting your e-mail address to a Web site, check its privacy policy. If your address can be sold, you may want to opt out or not submit your address. ( has one of the strictest no-Spam policies on the Internet; your information will never be sold or given away to any third party for any reason)

  • Look for check boxes in online forms that may need to be unchecked to opt out of mailings.

  • Pick a unique e-mail address. Spammers sort through possible e-mail names using "dictionary attacks" until they find a valid address. A unique address may make this more difficult--just don't make it so unusual that you can't remember it!

Recommended Reading

Don't Get Caught by Phishing Scams on the Internet!

Internet Safety for Kids: Seven Signs Your Child May be at Risk


New American Dream

Federal Trade Commission

Bank Rate: Opt-Out Options

Bank Rate: Checking Out the Opt Outs

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