I Fought Junk Mail and Won (One Battle)

One of my more satisfying accomplishments in 2016 was defeating a junk mailer who had repeatedly violated my credit reporting opt-out. The first part of this post comes from a draft letter I wrote, but never sent, to the three mail credit reporting agencies. It summarizes what happened between February 2015 and May 2016: at least five “pre-qualified” automobile loans sent to me in the mail, despite the fact I have never had a drivers license.

Here’s the story:

In February 2015 I received a notice in the mail that I was “prequalified” for an automobile loan by [Name Redacted] Auto, [Address Redacted].

This was a surprise, as I have never in my life had a drivers license. I called the telephone number on the letter and attempted to explain that they were wasting their time and mine, but was put on hold, transferred to voicemail, transferred to a number that rang but was never answered, and generally ignored. So later that day I called the “Prescreen Opt Out” number on the back of the notice and opted out of such notices.

A few weeks later I received another notice from the same company. Not sure if my opt out hadn’t yet “percolated” through the system or if I had not completed the process correctly on the phone, I again opted out using the Internet address provided. This time I received an on-screen confirmation, so I knew it had been completed correctly.

Nevertheless, a few months later I received yet another notice from Name Redacted Auto. On January 11, 2016, I contacted the finance company named on the reverse of the pre-qualification notice, via e-mail. I corresponded with Mark and sent him a scanned copy of the most recent notice I had received. He said he would forward it to their marketing department to investigate. I never received a response from marketing.

When I received another notice in January 2016, I notified Mark and again opted out via optoutprescreen.com.

On March 15, 2016, I received a pre-qualification notice from a subsidiary of Name Redacted Auto; on May 10, 2016, from another subsidiary. This is at least five pre-qualifications I have received since opting out fifteen months earlier.

On May 10 I called the number on the pre-qualification, which connected me to one of the subsidiaries. The man I spoke with told me I need to notify my credit companies that I do not want these notices, and ignored me when I told him I had done so twice.

I am disgusted. Consumers (formerly known as “people”) are continually told by corporations, marketers and social media companies that the vast amount of data collected about our habits are being used to “personalize” the advertising we see and “improve” our experience. So how is it possible that I receive repeated offers of automobile loans more than a year after opting out of such offers and which, as I do not possess a drivers license, it would be illegal for me to act on??

I am asking you, as Credit Monitoring companies, to assist me in ending this stupidity. Please help me to opt out of credit offers once and for all and stop the wasteful offers I receive from Name Redacted Auto.

I considered sending that letter directly to TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—the three large credit reporting companies—but instead e-mailed it to my friend Mark at the financial company.

Imagine my surprise, a few days later, when I received a phone call from the financial company’s Chief Operating Officer! He was very nice, eager to know all about my problem—and, yes, probably concerned that a letter to the credit reporting companies might reflect badly on his company. But I had been careful to write that Mark had been helpful, although not very effective.

Indeed, I had begun to suspect that “Name Redacted Auto” (as I’m calling them here) wasn’t going through the proper channels to obtain their mailing list. When I opted out in 2015, my name should have been taken off any mailing lists that Name Redacted Auto purchased from reputable companies. I now suspect they were holding on to an old list and re-using it without updates or cross-checking for (potential) customers who opted out.

In any event, I went through some of the same steps with the COO that I’d gone through with Mark: a scan of the most recent pre-qualification letter, a few e-mails, and now some phone calls and voice mails.

Except that this time the pre-qualification letters stopped. May 10th was the last I received. Eight months have passed without another one.

The question, of course, is why did this have to be so difficult?

I understand that companies want to sell their products and services, marketers want to market, advertisers want to advertise… But this was a complete waste, and I was trying to help them out with that first phone call almost two years ago. It’s not that I wasn’t in the market for a new car right now; it’s that I never learned to drive and have no plans to do so. Nothing they could do would ever change my mind.

There is a mechanism for opting out, and I followed it.

So here’s a link to information from the Federal Trade Commission regarding Pre-screened Credit and Insurance Offers.

You can also opt out of some direct marketing (postal mail) advertising, although not all marketers use the list and it is not legally required. And you can put both landline and cell phones on the Do Not Call registry. The problem with Do Not Call is that many scammers ignore it, so your junk phone calls won’t necessarily end. But it is legally mandated, and once you’ve registered your number(s) you can report violations online to the Federal Trade Commission.

Lastly, I recently discovered a website called StopDataMining.me. It’s a couple of years behind, but there is a list of contact information to opt out of fifty companies that collect and share consumer information. I’ve started working my way through them; the three credit reporting companies and Do Not Call registry are on the list, so I’m down to 46. I hope to work my way through the list in 2017.

What about you? Have you fought back against an onslaught of pointless advertising? And did you win?





2 thoughts on “I Fought Junk Mail and Won (One Battle)

  1. Dana Copeland February 2, 2017 / 11:27 am

    I spend a lot of time trying to eliminate the junk mail my family receives. For one, we don’t need a new car/credit card/gym membership. Secondly, even if I recycle what I can from these letters, it still leaves some trash that can’t recycle. And thirdly, they’re wasting their own money sending me letters I’ll never read. It’s a hard battle that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. Lately I’ve been using an app called PaperKarma to try to unsubscribe from these mailings… Hopefully, it will work to skim off some of the excess. Good luck!


    • Karen E. Lund February 2, 2017 / 12:22 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Dana.

      This is indeed a problem for many of us, and it’s more than just a nuisance. As you say, some of the materials aren’t recyclable–and it’s a waste of resources to send unwanted mail, even if the paper can be recycled. And that money spent sending junk mail to people who will never become customers adds to the cost of doing business, which is surely reflected in the price real customers pay.

      I’ve heard of PaperKarma but haven’t tried it, so I would love to hear your experience. Another resource that’s been around for a while is the Data & Marketing Association (formerly the Direct Marketing Association).

      Unfortunately it can seem like a never-ending battle: as soon as we stop one junk mailer, another pops up. And services like PaperKarma and DMA only stop the more honest companies; some ignore all requests to stop. The same is true of the Do Not Call list, even though that has the force of law behind it.


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