Reducing Junk Mail
Reducing the amount of junk mail received is one way to reduce the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft. The BBB offers six tops for doing so.
Give us some of the statistics on identity theft:
- According to a Javelin Strategy and Research survey on ID theft, there was a 22 percent increase from 2007 to 2008.
- Javelin estimates that 9.9 million Americans became victims of identity fraud last year, resulting in the loss of $48 billion.
- A growing number of these cases are the result of stolen junk mail. Pre-approved credit card offers, fliers and specially marked envelopes are not only a nuisance, they are an easy target for ID thieves.
What can people do to reduce the volume of junk mail they receive?
- Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers
· Pre-approved credit card offers are an easy target for identity thieves who can steal incoming mail and use these offers to open fraudulent credit accounts.
· Stopping these pre-screened credit offers can help reduce the chances of identity theft.
· To "opt-out" of receiving pre-approved credit card offers for at least five years, and perhaps permanently, consumers can call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit: www.optoutprescreen.com. This service is offered by the three major credit reporting bureaus. Consumers will be asked for personal information, including their name, address, birth date and Social Security Number. This information is only used to process requests and will remain confidential.
- Direct Mail Offers
· Direct Marketing Association is a trade group with 5,200 member companies that use telephone, mail, and the Internet to pitch their products directly to consumers.
· To stop receiving mailings from DMA members, consumers can go to www.dmachoice.org. DMA regularly updates its list, but the companies it notifies to remove names from their mailing lists may not be as prompt to act, and it may take as much as six months before solicitations from all DMA members stop.
· A consumer's mailbox can often be overrun with catalogues, even if they've never shopped with the company before.
· This is likely because the consumer has, at some point, made a catalogue or online purchase with a company that handed over their contact information to Abacus, an alliance of catalogue and publishing companies.
· To stop individual catalogue deliveries, consumers can contact the specific company in question. To stop mass mailings, consumers can e-mail, email@example.com, or write to Abacus, Inc., P.O. Box 1478, Broomfield, Colorado 80038.
- "Resident" and "Occupant" Mailings
· Consumers can remove their address from "resident" and "occupant" mailings that offer various goods and services by contacting Valassis—formerly known as ADVO, Inc.—either by phone 1-888-241-6760, or through an online form at www.advo.com/consumersupport.html.
· Consumers can also send a written request to ADVO, Inc. Customer Assistance, P.O. Box 249, Windsor, Connecticut 06095.
- Coupon Packs
· To stop receiving coupon packs, consumers can visit: www.coxtarget.com/mailsuppression/s/DisplayMailSuppressionForm and fill out an online request form. Other requests can be directed to the sender on the printed envelope received.
- Solicitations Sent to Children
· If a child under age 13 is being mailed advertisements or credit card offers, it could be a sign that identity theft has occurred.
· Parents should contact the three major credit bureaus, listed below, and inform them of the situation.
a. Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
b. Experian: 1-888-397-3742
c. TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away more than 4 million tons of junk mail each year, making the garbage can a goldmine for fraud artists. BBB recommends shredding all documents that contain sensitive information or that can be used to activate an account.