Stop Junk Mail Dead in Its Tracks
(ARA) – Ever stop and wonder how that mortgage broker from out of state managed to find your name and address? Or how the unfamiliar home improvement company that called you last night knew you were shopping around for windows?
We often give out our name, address and phone number without a second thought — to the salesman at the home improvement store, to the sweepstakes company promising the chance at a $1 million prize, to the marketers who promise to send free samples in exchange for completing a survey. In a perfect world, all companies would protect our personal information. Unfortunately, that is often not the case.
“There is a $10 billion industry profiting from the trading and selling of consumers’ personal information — without consumers’ knowledge or their consent,” says Steven Gal, CEO of ProQuo.com, a La Jolla, Calif. company founded to help provide consumers with meaningful choice and control over how their personal information is used. Gal points out that in many cases, these so-called “data brokers” get their lists from reputable companies the consumer has done business with, but had no idea would be selling their personal information.
Companies are now realizing that in this day and age many of their customers are skittish about the idea of their personal information falling into the wrong hands, especially due to the threat of identity theft. As a result, many are now offering their customers opportunities to “opt-out,” or to keep their information private. You likely received an opt-out offer hidden in the privacy notice that came with your latest phone or credit card bill.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s latest Identity Theft Survey, nearly two million Americans have had their personal information used to open fraudulent accounts. In addition, the practices of data brokers lead to massive amounts of junk mail — Americans now receive nearly four tons of junk mail annually.
Here are five easy steps you can take to help prevent misuse of your personal information and reduce junk mail:
1. Many stores offer "rewards" or "points" programs. Often stores consider your participation as consent to share your information without directly asking for your permission. If you want to avoid getting junk mail or other promotional material, either don’t join these programs, or ask the stores not to share your personal information.
2. Take advantage of a free service like ProQuo.com to remove your name and personal information from thousands of marketing lists, data brokers and other organizations that send you unsolicited mail. ProQuo.com is a free Web site where you easily set up an account and choose the organizations that you want to stop using your personal information and sending you unwanted mail.
3. The next time you buy something that comes with a warranty card, do not send it back. These are used primarily to market more products to you, and you are not required to send in a completed warranty card — your receipt is all you need to make a warranty claim.
4. If you don’t want your personal information in the hands of data brokers, avoid putting your name and address in the box for a free drawing or other promotion. These are surefire ways to get your name, address and telephone number on multiple junk mail or telemarketing lists.
5. Avoid the urge to enter sweepstakes that require you to provide your contact information. Many times these are a front to build mailing databases, and the only guaranteed prize you will win is a mailbox overloaded with marketing offers.
For more information on how to take control of your personal information from marketers, log on to www.proquo.com and establish your free account today. ProQuo says the site can help people reduce their junk mail by 50 to 90 percent within just three months.
Courtesy of ARAcontent