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How to cut down or stop unwanted phone, fax, mail, or e-mail ads

Somehow, your name and contact information ended up on a list created by somebody who passed it to several other somebodies, and now you're flooded with solicitations for all kinds of things you neither asked for nor wanted. What's a consumer to do?

You may not be able to get your name off all marketing lists, but there are ways to reduce the amount of unsolicited mail you receive.

Regular mail

To stop most advertising mail:

The Direct Marketing Association's DMA Choice program allows you to request that specific companies or types of companies stop sending you unsolicited mail. It will take about 90 days for your preferences to take effect. The Direct Marketing Association represents most, but not all, direct marketers. Go to www.dmachoice.org to submit your request online. You can also make your request in writing. Send your letter to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512. Enclose a check for $1 made out to Direct Marketing Association. Do not send cash.

To stop credit card or loan offers:

A call to (888) 5OPTOUT or 888.567.8688 will stop most pre-approved credit offers from landing in your mailbox. You can choose to have your request stand for five years or permanently. Visit www.optoutprescreen.com to file the request online.

To stop catalogs:

Call the number on the specific catalog you are receiving, or send a letter requesting removal of your name and address (include the address label from the catalog). You can also register your request to stop specific catalogs online at www.catalogchoice.org. Not all catalogs are listed on the Web site.

Text messages

Report it:

State and Federal laws prohibit sending unsolicited text advertising to wireless devices such as cell phones and pagers. If you receive such messages, you can contact your wireless service provider or complain to the Federal Communications Commission at (888) TELL-FCC or 888.835.5322 or online at www.fcc.gov.

E-mail

Block it:

The use of an effective e-mail filter is the best way to block unsolicited e-mail. The most popular e-mail service providers offer filters. Check with your e-mail service provider for details.

Contact the senders:

Find the Direct Marketing Association's DMA Choice E-mail Preference Service at www.dmachoice.org to have your e-mail address removed from some national e-mail advertising lists. Registration with eMPS Registration is good for five years. The request will not apply to local merchants, professional and alumni groups, and political candidates.

Report violators:

State and Federal laws forbid individuals and companies from sending commercial e-mail in many instances. Violators can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov.

Exercise your opt out rights:

If you receive unsolicited e-mail from a company you have done business with, look for information on the e-mail on how to unsubscribe or stop future messages.

Phone calls

Register your phone number:

You can register your home and cell phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry, which was created by the Federal Trade Commission. Go online to www.DoNotCall.gov or call 888.382.1222 to register. The registration is permanent unless you remove it. It may take three months for your request to take effect. If you're not sure if you've registered your phone numbers, call or go online to verify. Remember, political solicitations, charities, and surveys are not covered by the registry, but if you tell them not to call you again, they have to honor your request.

Faxes

Keep and report:

Unsolicited ads sent by fax offering property, goods, or services are illegal under State and Federal law. Do not respond, even to ask the sender to stop sending the notices. Your best approach is to keep the fax and forward it with your complaint to the California Office of the Attorney General. Find the complaint form online at http://oag.ca.gov/. Attach the complaint form to the faxed ads, and mail or fax them to the address or phone number on the form. For more information, you can contact the Office of the Attorney General at 800.952.5225 or 916.322.3360. Complaints about unsolicited faxes may also be forwarded to the Federal Communications Commission. Go online to www.FCC.gov or call (888) TELL-FCC or 888.835.5322 for information on how file a complaint.

Sources:

The bottom line

Many unsolicited letters and e-mails are advertisements for legitimate products and services, but others are scams. Bogus stock tips, real estate investments, and foreign lotteries are some of the scams that may be sent via fax, mail, or e-mail.

To learn more:

For assistance on a wide range of consumer issues, contact the Department of Consumer Affairs' Consumer Information Center at 800.952.5210.

State of California Department of Consumer Affairs
1625 North Market Blvd. Suite N-112
Sacramento, CA 95834
800.952.5210 toll-free
800.326.2297 TDD