Updated on 26 August 2009.
Junk mail can come through the post in many forms, from flyers to competition entries to leaflet campaigns. While an unsolicited envelope or two on occasion might be tolerable, a constant stream of paper advertising things you don't want or trying to scam you in some way can quickly make post a pest.
Particularly in the case of post addressed 'to the sender/occupier', it's difficult to tell who is sending it to you and whether or not the offers are genuine, which can make it impossible to know which post you can trust.
Fortunately there are things you can do to reduce junk mail in your letterbox, and even stop it altogether. Following our guidelines is a good place to start in the battle against postal spam.
If you're receiving post that has your name and address on the front but contains information, adverts, or catalogues that you didn't request and have no interest in, you can opt out of receiving this Direct Mail marketing. Simply sign up to the Mail Preference Service (MPS) register and you'll be taken off the Direct Mail mailing list. It can take up to 4 months for this kind of mail to stop completely, but during this time you should see a significant reduction in the amount of junk mail you receive.
Another kind of mail that can be particularly annoying is that which is delivered by the Royal Mail, but is not addressed personally to you and generally is made up of flyers and campaigns that might possibly be of interest to you.
If you have no desire to receive this type of mail you will have to check first that the rest of your household is happy not to be sent any more unaddressed mail. Then you can sign up to the Royal Mail Door-to-Door opt-out , which will inform the Royal Mail that you are not interested in receiving any unaddressed mail. It should take about 6 weeks after you have made your request for you to stop receiving this mail altogether.
Remember however that this means no-one in your household will receive any unaddressed mail of any kind, and the Royal Mail won't know which unaddressed mail you want to receive and which you don't. So make sure you are happy to no longer receive any unaddressed mail at all before you sign up.
One of the ways in which companies and businesses obtain your address details for sending you unsolicited mail is the edited electoral register. This is different to the full electoral register in that whereas the latter is only used for selected companies (such as banks) to check your identity, the edited version can be bought and used by any person or company wishing to use your details for marketing purposes.
You'll find a box on your electoral registration form which will refer to the edited electoral register. Read the small print carefully and leave the box unticked if you only want to appear on the full register. You can also contact your local elections office at any point in the year and request that you are taken off the edited electoral roll.
Other important tick boxes can be found on many forms used to gather your personal data. For example if you are supplying your name and address to a company when buying a product, scan the form carefully for boxes that refer to 'other products and services from select suppliers'. If you don't tick this box you will usually be added to mailing lists by default and find yourself with a flood of mail with no known source.
Unfortunately addressed and unaddressed post is not the only unwanted mail that will land on your doormat. There are still door-to-door deliverers who aren't operated by the Royal Mail, and passers-by who will indiscriminately slide something through each letterbox, and these don't have any 'opt-out' scheme that you can sign up to.
However you can still take action against unwarranted papering of this kind. For example you can place a notice on your front door next to your letterbox that clearly states which mail you do not want to receive. A note that says 'no commercial leaflets' or 'no free newspapers' is a simple but usually effective way of dissuading local businesses from posting through your letterbox.
If you also resent the weighty directories such as Yell and Thomson that are thudded at every door in the street - perhaps you prefer to find information online or just think it's a waste of paper - you can request to stop these too. Just call, email, or write to the directory in question and ask to opt out of receiving it.
If you've taken action on junk mail and yet some flyers and adverts are still creeping through the system, you could always try writing 'return to sender' on the front and putting it back in the post. This will usually get the message through to the offending company that you want no more mail from them.
Even more effective is using their prepaid envelope, if they have supplied one, to send back unwanted post. You can also try contacting companies directly, and telling them explicitly that you want to be removed from their mailing lists, with immediate effect.
Written by Sally at money.co.uk
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