If you're like many people, you were pleased to add your name to the National Do Not Call Registry back in 2003.

Finally, you had the opportunity to silence telemarketer phone calls that take you away from dinner and interrupt your favorite TV programs. You may have also asked to be taken off mailing lists.

When the phones kept ringing and the paper junk mail kept coming, you may have thought optimistically, it just takes a little time. But years later, nothing much has changed.

Quick Tips to Help Reduce E-Mail

 

    When making an online purchase and adding your contact information for shipping, look to see if there is a box you can check to opt-out of receiving further messages. Read it carefully because sometimes the box is opt-in, giving the business permission to send you e-mail.
    The Direct Marketing Association has an E-Mail Preference Service to help reduce unsolicited e-mails. Click here to opt out of receiving messages from DMA members. Your request will be effective for one year.

So why are you still receiving solicitations?

Rules for Telemarketers

The reason you may still be hearing from telemarketers is that some callers are exempt from the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule. For example:

  • Political solicitations are not covered.
     
  • Charities are exempt from the requirements of the national registry. (However, if a third-party telemarketer is calling on behalf of a charity, you can ask not to receive any more calls from, or on behalf of, that specific charity.)
     
  • The National Do Not Call Registry is only for personal phone numbers. Business-to-business calls and faxes are not covered.

  • Telemarketers can contact you if you have an established business relationship. So let's say you purchase something from a retailer and provide your phone number. That company can call you for up to 18 months, unless you ask not to be called -- even if you put your number on the Do Not Call Registry.
     
  • An established business relationship can also be created if you make an inquiry to a company or submit an application to it. This kind of established business relationship exists for three months after the inquiry or application. During this time, the company can call you unless you request not to be contacted.

Of course, there are also telemarketers that disobey the rules and you can fight back. If your number has been on the National Do Not Call Registry for at least 31 days and you receive a call from a telemarketer that you believe is violating the rules, you can file a complaint by clicking here or by calling its toll-free number at 1-888-382-1222.

An Overstuffed Mailbox

Perhaps you got tired of receiving paper flyers, catalogs, coupons and other advertisements in your mailbox and asked the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to take your name off mailing lists. Yet, you continue to receive some "junk mail." One reason: When you sign up for DMA's Mail Preference Service, you only stop getting mail from its members. You continue to receive mail from non-DMA members and companies that you already do business with. In addition, the DMA notes, "you may continue to receive mail from local merchants, professional and alumni associations, political candidates and office holders, and mail addressed to resident/occupant."

Slow the Influx

So what can you do? Here are a few steps that can at least slow the influx of mail and telephone solicitations:

  • When "privacy policies" arrive in the mail, send them back with a note that denies the sender permission to sell your name.

  • When you mail rebates and product warranties, mark them "no mailing lists."
     
  • To have your name taken out of popular databases, send a request by e-mail to abacusoptout@epsilon.com or by mail to Epsilon Data Services, P.O. Box 1478, Broomfield, CO 80038. Send your full name (including middle initial), current address, and previous address if you moved in the last six months. This company maintains a database of names and street addresses (not e-mail addresses) that businesses share to find customers who might be interested in their products and services.
     
  • Credit reporting companies have set up a Web site to allow consumers to opt out of receiving offers related to credit and insurance. Go to optoutprescreen.com to request your name be removed. Not only will this stop letters from arriving in your mailbox, it could help prevent identity theft because thieves have intercepted pre-approved credit card offers and opened up lines of credit in the names of the intended recipients.
     
  • The DMA has addressed the sensitive issue of mail sent to people who have died by establishing a Deceased Do-Not-Contact List that its members are required to honor.

  • For more information about getting your name off marketing lists, visit the Direct Marketing Association Web site.

  • Keep in mind that your phone number will only remain on the National Do Not Call Registry for five years from the date you register. So if you registered in the summer of 2003, your name will reappear on calling lists in 2011 unless you take action.
     
  • If you do receive telephone solicitation calls, clearly state that you want to be added to the caller's do-not-call list.

Of course, these steps probably won't stop all the junk mail and sales calls. But you can decrease the volume and regain some control.

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