Seeing magazines that you didn't order jam your mailbox can be an annoying and frustrating experience. Advertising content accounts for 59 percent of mail that Americans receive, but only half of it is ever read, according to a CBS News report. However, if you're willing to take a little bit of initiative -- and learn how the direct mail industry operates -- you'll be able to drastically curtail the flow of unwanted magazines you've experienced lately.
Step 1: Contact the Magazine Publisher Directly
Write the magazine's subscription department by email, or regular letter, and explain that you don't want your name, address and phone number given out for promotional purposes. Follow this approach for magazines that you receive willingly, too, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advises. Other companies allow you to opt out of mailing lists, but don't assume this happens automatically, says North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehejm. Often, you must state your preference.
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Step 2: Contact the Direct Marketing Association
Register with the Direct Marketing Association's mail preference service, which you must do every three years, says Stenehejm. Formed in 1917, the DMA represents 3,600 businesses that use direct mail. To register by mail, send a check or money order for $1 to: DMA Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512. To register online, visit www.DMAchoice.org. Then click one or all four categories -- which include credit offers, catalogs, magazine offers, and other mail offers -- that you wish to start or stop from each company. You'll then receive an email link verifying your registration.
Don't overlook the chance to register caretakers' or deceased family members' names, which the DMA also provides for free. Follow the same procedures that you use to register yourself online.
Step 3: Don't Leave a Forwarding Address
If you're moving, don't fill out the U.S. Postal Service's change of address form, which the agency enters into its national database -- allowing subscribers like data brokers and marketing companies to keep sending unwanted junk mail items like magazines, states the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Signing up also allows USPS to sell your name to an estimated 500 companies.
Fill out a temporary change of address form, which doesn't go into the USPS database, and you can extend every six months. After a year, your mail isn't forwarded anymore.
Step 4: Sign Up With Catalog Choice
Clamp down further on unsolicited magazines and other junk items by registering with Catalog Choice's mail preference cervice. The firm works with about 8,000 companies -- including data brokers that buy personal data -- to ensure that consumers' direct mail preferences are honored. You must create an account on the Catalog Choice website. Once registered, you can state your various opt-in or out decisions online.
Step 5: Watch Your Online Shopping Habits
Keep an eye out for pop-up ads or boxes touting special subscription offers, or "thank yous" for items that you've bought online. Unless you read the fine print, you may wind up with an unsolicited subscription being automatically billed to your credit card, warns Forbes magazine reporter Caroline Meyer in her April 2014 article, "When Magazines You Don't Want Clog Your Mailbox." When it's time to renew, you may also see charges for the regular subscription rate, instead of the $2 offer that prompted you to click the ad.
Be proactive when unsolicited magazines land in your mailbox. Ask the magazine to see how you can stop additional copies from coming, or whether you're better off contacting the intermediary organization that most likely signed you up.