Swamped by junk mail? Two ways to stop it

Posted at 6:08 PM, Dec 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-13 10:41:13-05

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

One Warren County, Ohio 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,"  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 do, or you do if you are 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, for instance.

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 3 or 4 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 mialing 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”).

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