Like most people concerned about identity theft, I occasionally gather up any documents with sensitive personal information I’ve accumulated over time and run them through the paper shredder. As usual, most of it was junk; courtesy of the United States Post Office. Of course, this always leaves me wondering how to stop junk mail. In fact, during my most recent “shredding party,” the Honeybee presented me with a plastic grocery bag loaded up with an astounding number of nothing but credit card courtesy checks and pre-approved credit card promotions.
Now I know what your thinking: What is the numerical equivalent of “astounding?” Um, that would be 44. In four months.
I’m not kidding. Here’s a detailed breakdown of all the mail offers we’ve received over that time:
- 2 MasterCard applications affiliated with my college fraternity.
- 2 Discover applications.
- 10 VISA applications affiliated with Southwest airlines.
- 4 American Express gold card applications.
- 13 VISA applications affiliated with Marriott.
- 2 American Express applications.
- 2 VISA applications from Disney.
- 1 VISA application affiliated with the American Auto Association.
- 1 VISA application from Chase.
- 7 credit card courtesy check offers (16 checks in all).
As a visual aid, here’s a photo of all those applications and courtesy checks spread out on my loft floor.
You know, I really wanted to include in the photo all the envelopes, brochures and supporting paperwork that came with a lot of the offers, but I don’t have a wide-angle camera lens. Or a big enough loft for that matter.
Anyway, upon looking at all those credit card offers and promotions I immediately came to two conclusions:
- While shredding pre-approved credit card applications and courtesy checks into confetti before putting them into the trash can virtually eliminate the risk of theft, it can’t prevent a thief from stealing them while they sit in an unguarded mailbox.
- Forget plastic grocery bags. If I don’t get this junk mail issue under control now I’m going to have to start investing in potato sacks, because the day won’t be far off when I’m going to need them to store all these unsolicited credit card offers.
With that in mind I figured it’s better to be safe than sorry, and just stop their delivery altogether. So I did.
Regaining Control of My Mailbox
Thankfully, the entire credit card offer opt-out process turned out to be, well, small potatoes. It was no trouble at all and, if I can do it, you can do it too.
To stop receiving credit card courtesy checks:
- Simply call your credit card company — I used the number on the back of my card — and ask them to stop mailing them to you. It’s as simple as that! In my case, the credit card company said it may take up to 30 days before the request becomes fully effective.
To keep those pre-approved credit card applications from clogging your mailbox:
- Go to OptOutPreScreen.com and make your request online. You can choose to opt out for five years — or even permanently. If you choose the latter, however, you will need to print and mail an additional permanent opt-out election form. I went with the five-year option. In this case, though, I was advised that it could take “several months” before I finally see the last of the credit card mail offers. Still, that’s fine with me!
Finally, for those of you interested in stopping all of your junk mail, good luck! However, a good place to start might be a website called Catalog Choice. Folks who sign up for a free account there can opt-out of selected junk mailings including catalogs, phone books, coupon books and other unwanted postal flotsam and jetsam.
Does it really work? To be honest, I’m not sure, but Catalog Choice claims to have helped 1.3 million people avoid more than 20 million pieces of junk mail.
I bet the potato sack industry isn’t too happy about that.
Photo Credit: erix!