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Stopping unwanted electronic mail ("SPAM")

As an individual there's not much you can do to combat the scourge of unsolicited email (SPAM), but there are a few steps:


What to do

- Never never never reply to a SPAM email.- Never buy anything "spamvertised" in unsolicited email: it just encourages the operators, and is risky.- Run antivirus software on your computers. But watch out, fake antivirus is a thriving industry.- Don't just delete spam: mark it as spam using features found in your email software.- Watch out for rouge mobile apps that harvest smartphone address books (any application that wants access to your address book should have a good reason).

Stopping unwanted telephone marketing calls

The Federal Trade Commission implemented Telemarketer Sales Rules (TSR) as follows:- Calling times are restricted to the hours between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.- Telemarketers must promptly tell you the identity of the seller or charitable organization and that the call is a sales call or a charitable solicitation.- Telemarketers must disclose all material information about the goods or services they are offering and the terms of the sale. They are prohibited from lying about any terms of their offer.- Reduces abandoned calls. Telemarketers are required to connect their call to a sales representative within two seconds of the consumer’s greeting. This will reduce the number of “dead air” or hang-up calls you get from telemarketers. These calls result from the use of automatic dialing equipment that sometimes reaches more numbers than there are available sales representatives. In addition, when the telemarketer doesn’t have a representative standing by, a recorded message must play to let you know who’s calling and the number they’re calling from. The law prohibits a recorded sales pitch in a cold call. And to give you time to answer the phone, the telemarketer may not hang up on an unanswered call before 15 seconds or four rings.- Requires caller ID transmission.Telemarketers must transmit their telephone number and if possible, their name, to your caller ID service. This protects your privacy, increases accountability on the telemarketer’s part and helps in law enforcement efforts.- Reins in Robocalling. Most businesses need your written permission before they can call you with prerecorded telemarketing messages, or robocalls. In fact, a business has to make it clear it’s asking to call you with these kinds of messages, and it can’t require you to agree to the calls in order to get any goods or services. If you agree, you also have the right to change your mind. Businesses using robocalls have to tell you at the beginning of the message how you can stop future calls, and must provide an automated opt-out you can activate by voice or keypress throughout the call. If the message could be left on your voicemail or answering machine, businesses also have to provide a toll-free number at the beginning of the message that will connect to an automated opt-out system you can use any time.Some prerecorded messages still are permitted under these rules — for example, messages that are purely informational. That means you’ll still receive calls to let you know your flight’s been cancelled, reminders about an appointment or messages about a delayed school opening. But the business doing the calling still isn’t allowed to promote the sale of any goods or services. - Political calls, calls from certain healthcare providers and messages from a business contacting you to collect a debt also are permitted.- Prerecorded messages from banks, telephone carriers and charities also are exempt from these rules if the banks, carriers or charities make the calls themselves.


What to do

The TSR established the National Do Not Call Registry, which makes it easier and more efficient for consumers to reduce the number of unwanted telemarketing sales calls they get. You may register online at, provided you have a working email address, or by phone, by calling toll-free 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the number you wish to register. Registration is free.You may also complain about violations to the TSR at techniques:You may simply interrupt the telemarketer and say "Please permanently remove me from your calling list". Remember that they just interrupted you. If the same people call back, they are violating the law. Ask them for their company name, supervisor name and phone number. If you wish to quote Federal law to the telemarketer, you may read it at Federal Trade Commission: Telemarketing Sales Rule.General Telemarketing calls: Send a postcard with your complete telephone number, area code, address, and names of people receiving calls to DMA Telephone Preference Service, PO Box 9014, Farmingdale NY 11735-9014.

Direct Marketing Association mail preference service

Many bulk mailers are members of the Direct Marketing Association, and and as such are required to honor your mail preferences.


What to do

- You can opt-out online, but they require a credit card, which is creepy. Website is - You can opt out by sending a postcard or letter to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 15012-0643 Include your complete name, address, zip code and a request to "activate the preference service". For up to five years, this will stop mail from all member organizations that you have not specifically ordered products from.

Fraudulent or scam mail or email

For very good information about mail/email sent with fraudulent intent (money making schemes, multi-level marketing, fly-by-night operators, stock market "secrets", etc.), link to

Stopping specific types of unwanted paper mail


General Techniques

Your name, address, and buying habits are a commodity that is regularly sold & traded on the open market. These days organizations you deal with virtually all sell your name unless you specifically ask them to stop.

What to do

- Whenever you donate money, order a product or service, or fill out a warranty card, write in large letters, "Please do not sell my name or address". Most organizations will properly mark your name in the computer. - Product warranty cards are are often used to collection information on your habits and income, for the sole purpose of targeting direct mail. They are not required in most situations - avoid sending them. - On the telephone, ask "Please mark my account so that my name is not traded or sold to other companies". - Your credit card company probably sells your name the most often -- keep reading for techniques to stop it. - "Contests" where you fill in a little entry blank are almost always fishing expeditions for names. If you fill one out at a football game, for example, expect to get a catalog of football merchandise within a few months. Avoid these if you don't want the mail. - Select a false middle name or initial for each charity or business you deal with. Keep track of which letter goes with which organization. You can also select a false road designator, "avenue, place, circle, street, highway, parkway, etc.". This step can be very revealing. Some guides recommend changing the spelling of your name, but this can lead to duplicate mailings.

Opt-out of Yellow Pages Delivery


What to do

When's the last time you looked at the Yellow Pages? You can now opt-out of receiving directories, thanks to a program of the American Association of Directory Publishers.