How to stop annoying junk mail

Posted at 12:48 PM, Dec 14, 2016

Swamped by junk mail?
Is an older relative of yours getting inundated with charity requests or sweepstakes entries?    

One family is desperate for a way to stop their flood of mail. So, we got involved to try to help and learned some information that could help everyone.

Mom receives dozens of mailings a day

David Donovan doesn't know what to do with the charity requests that target his 90-plus-year-old mother daily.

"She has received anywhere from 26 to 60 pieces of mail per day," he said.

He took a photo of her struggling with one day's delivery at her retirement home from groups like "the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Food for the Poor, Freedom for Christians," he said. "Even well known names like the American Red Cross and ACLU."

Almost all of these are legitimate charities, and there is nothing wrong with donating to them. The problem is when you receive requests by the hundreds.

What you can do

So what can the Donovans (or you) do in this situation?

The US Postal Service says it cannot filter out junk mail. It has no way of telling a charity request from a legitimate bill or important check without opening the envelope (which it cannot do).  If it simply tosses your loved one's bulk mail, it could inadvertently throw out an important credit card bill.

However, there are two things you can do.

1. You can opt out of most junk mail by signing up at the websiteDMA

NOTE: Some antivirus programs may flag this as questionable, but it is a legitimate site, run by the Direct Marketing Association. Learn more about them here.

But Donovan learned it has a catch. "The problem is that doesn't shut off the mail you are getting," he said.

If you are on a charity's mailing list, they will continue sending you requests until you ask them to stop. That's fine if it is just three or four groups, but not if you are receiving mailings from dozens of groups.

2. Divert your elderly relative's mail to your home.

The next step is to request your elderly parents mail be diverted to you, so you can sort through it first and just hand them their important letters and bills.

That's especially important if they are getting sweepstakes letters, because you don't want them sending their life savings to sweepstakes scams. Once you send money to a sweepstakes, they will sell your name to dozens of other sweepstakes companies as a "hot" address.

One caution: your elderly relative will have to agree to this and sign off on the mail diversion. You cannot simply go to the post office yourself and change their mailing address.

David will try diverting his mother's mail, hoping she no longer has to deal with a bursting mailbox every day.  

That way you don't waste your money.


“Don't Waste Your Money” is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”). John Matarese reports on deals and scams so you "Don't Waste Your Money".

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