How to Stop Junk Mail Addressed to You or Someone Else: 8 Steps to Try

Updated

Getting mail can be fun — but those colored leaflets and envelopes that signal the arrival of junk mail? Not fun at all! Clutter might even make you feel as if it gets in the way of storing important documents. It can be very frustrating to manage extra paper you don’t want. 

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Luckily, the United States Postal Service (USPS) offers some guidance to help you stem the mail flow at your home or the home of a deceased loved one. The junk mail may be addressed to someone who is no longer living or who has moved out of the house.

Here are some steps you can take to remove some of the unwanted junk mail. Hopefully, you’ll receive no junk mail after you complete the entire process.

How to Stop Junk Mail from USPS Addressed to Yourself

Chances are good that you receive a lot of junk mail If you’ve lived in one place for a long time. You have just moved after inheriting a house full of stuff and may rack up junk mail quickly. Make this the year you tackle the frustration head-on — it should cut your junk mail substantially.

1. Opt out of insurance and credit offers

Do you receive offers for credit cards or new insurance companies? If so, you will want to start with the website OptOutPrescreen.com. This process notifies the major credit reporting companies that you do not wish to receive any offers for credit or insurance. 

The site allows you to opt out of these offers online for five years. This simple process could offer results in just a few weeks. As you might expect, some junk mail may have already been on its way, so results are not instantaneous.

Are you certain you don’t want to receive any further offers of credit or insurance at this address ever again? You can fill in a similar form online at OptOutPrescreen.com, but you’ll have to send it by mail in order to complete the process.

You can also call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT instead of filling out the online form. You’ll need your name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number in order to complete the process of opting out, whether you go online or through the phone.

2. Opt out of Direct Marketers’ Association mailers

Another major source of unwanted mailings is direct marketing. This category of mailers can include advertisements, coupon booklets, and more. The mailers are sent to an entire neighborhood at a time, not just to you. Your name and address are on a list maintained by a company or by the Direct Marketers’ Association. Many people are added to these lists when they sign up for a catalog or buy a product.

Registering at DMAChoice costs a nominal processing fee of $2 for a 10-year registration. Once you’re registered, you’ll get to choose what, if any, direct marketing you wish to receive. The options are extensive, but you can opt out of all communication offers.

As with credit offers, you may not see immediate results. Removing your name from the approved lists means that, as new advertisers receive their available names or update their lists, you won’t be included anymore. You should see a major mail decrease.

3. Note any continuing junk mail and unsubscribe online

There are some especially tenacious junk mail purveyors whose repeat offenses prompt you to address them individually. Luckily, some of them may actually give you a way out.

The first step is to review the outside of the envelope or any section of the mailer that contains company information. Many companies allow you to unsubscribe online.

You can take yourself off the website’s mailing list online. People experience mixed results, so if you receive more mailings after two months, consider unsubscribing again or give them a call.

Here’s an example. Two organizations that send lots of direct mailings include Valpak and RedPlum Publications. Both companies have easy-to-follow unsubscribe procedures if you receive these mailers at your address often. 

4. Without standard procedures, call and make an unsubscribe request

Unfortunately, you may have accidentally gotten on one or two mailing lists that don’t connect to any of the above procedures. Start a stack of junk mail that arrives at least two months after your last unsubscribing attempts. There’s no need to address each one as it arrives.

Every month or so, take that stack and make calls to the junk mail customer service numbers and request that your address be removed. Two hours of doing this could result in remarkable headway. Each month, the stack should be smaller, and your time individually calling will be that much shorter.

ยป MORE: Don't skip these commonly forgotten post loss tasks. Download our post loss checklist.

 

How to Stop Junk Mail From USPS Addressed to Someone that Died or a Previous Resident of Your Home

Whether you are looking after the home of a deceased loved one or have inherited a home that originally belonged to someone else, many people experience junk mail addressed to someone else.

You don’t want additional clutter coming in when you are in the midst of long-term processes like cleaning out an elderly parents’ home. In this case, you still have ways to cut down on junk mail using many of the same online unsubscribing options.

1. Contact DMAChoice at its website

The same DMAChoice website referenced above can also provide you with options for removing other people’s names from mailing lists. It has both a “Deceased Do Not Contact” list and a “Do Not Contact” list that applies to people who are under your care.

These lists allow you to report the circumstances, and they will remove that name and address from their lists.

2. Write “deceased, return to sender” on junk mail and return it

If you receive junk mail that isn’t addressed to you, you are within your rights to circle or write “return to sender” on the mail. In fact, this is preferable, since you are not supposed to dispose of or keep mail that doesn’t belong to you. You definitely aren’t supposed to open mail addressed to other people, so this is a very useful option.

You can give a reason for the returned mail to help the company make a choice. You can write “wrong address, return to sender” if the person is alive but not living at your address or “deceased, return to sender” for a person who has died. This notification helps companies update lists and avoid wasting money on mailers.

3. Speak with your mail carrier about a permanent hold

The first two steps may not dissuade companies from sending junk mail to the wrong person. Consider talking to your mail carrier directly. He or she may be able to impose a permanent hold on any junk mail or other mail with the deceased or departed person’s name on it and your address.

This can involve pulling mail and forwarding it except it simply goes undelivered and is, in many cases, automatically returned to the sender.

4. Contact companies directly

You can also set aside time to make a phone call to each company that sends persistent information or mailers. This can be a good strategy if the envelopes that arrive for an individual seem to be creditors or someone looking for the deceased individual in particular. These aren’t technically direct mail, but they can still feel like junk to you.

Let companies know that sending letters to your home will have no impact on their ability to reach this person. It may convince them to stop sending so much mail to your address.

Stem the Tidal Wave of Junk Mail

Take a few minutes (or hours) and cut down the amount of junk mail you receive. You could save yourself the time of processing or storing it in the long run. You’ll also save lots of paper and crush the environmental impact of junk mail. 

Consider making this process one of your New Year’s Resolution ideas and reap the benefits of a less-cluttered life.


Sources

  1. “Stopping Unsolicited Mail, Phone Calls, and Emails.” Consumer Information. Federal Trade Commission. consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0262-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email.
  2. “Opt Out Prescreen FAQs.” Opt Out Prescreen. Federal Credit Reporting Agencies. optoutprescreen.com/faq.
  3. “Get Started.” Direct Marketers’ Association. DMAChoice. dmachoice.thedma.org/register.php#.
  4. “Return to Sender Mail.” USPS Help. USPS. faq.usps.com/s/article/Return-to-Sender-Mail.
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