If you have an address, a phone number, an email address or a pulse, odds are that you have been aggravated by unwanted junk mail, telemarketing calls, spam email, and the like. The bad news is that much of it is not going to go away anytime soon. (It's big business -- and since companies spend a total of more than $100 billion on it annually, it's probably effective for them.) The good news is that you can take some steps to minimize its volume.
- To reduce calls from telemarketers, sign up with the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) National Do Not Call Registry, which is pretty painless. It won't rid you of all unwanted calls, but so far the results are encouraging -- most people are receiving significantly fewer calls. In just the second half of 2003, more than 55 million phone numbers were registered. According to a survey, "more than half of all U.S. adults (57%) say that they have signed up for the registry. Ninety-two percent of those who signed up report receiving fewer telemarketing calls, and twenty-five percent (25%) of those registered say they have received no telemarketing calls since signing up."
- To reduce junk mail, such as catalogs, register with the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service. To curtail credit card solicitations, call 888-5OPT-OUT and the credit bureaus will cease sending your name to credit card issuers. (Get a lot of good advice on maximizing your credit rating and finding the perfect credit card in our Credit Center. We even offer a special credit card for Fools now.)
- Unwanted (and usually tawdry) email, or Spam, is the hardest to fight. You're less likely to be able to significantly reduce the spam you get, but it can be done. First off, employ whatever filters are at your disposal, such as those that come with your email service. Time Warner's
(NYSE:TWX)AOL service offers a decent spam filter, for example, and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT)MSN also has filtering available. Next, be careful about what you do with your email address. Try not to give it out to possibly disreputable parties online and don't post it on a website, where it can be harvested. If you want to post messages online, consider setting up an extra email account, used just for that purpose, so that it bears the brunt of spam. Report troublesome spam to your email service provider and/or to the Federal Trade Commission.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Microsoft and Time Warner.