Sunday, March 19, 2006

Leave me alone

One of my spring-cleaning chores is "paperwork reduction". So I've been busy tearing the back pages off of catalogs, opting out of mailings, and signing up for emailed notifications instead of paper ones from my assorted financial institutions.

It's a good feeling to reduce email and phone calls, although each step is a bit tedious. If you're getting too much garbage in your mailbox, especially the dangerous credit card solicitations, then consider following some of these steps:
  • Calling 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) to get a five-year ban on credit-card solicitations. NB: don't answer the computer until it has completely finished saying each question.
  • Go to www.donotcall.gov, or call 1-888-382-1222 (from the phone you want off the list) for a five-year ban on phone solicitations. This does not apply to political phone solicitations, but you can stop them with the Magic Words.
  • Go to the Direct Mail Association and request opt-outs on all new catalogs for five years. This really works.
  • If you have a "relationship" with a company, then they can still send you anything they like. Hence, I'm suddenly getting American Girl catalogs due to a Christmas gift I bought for a child last year. Every one of those companies has to get a written letter, with a copy of the mailing label they used.
  • If you have a "relationship" with a company, they can also call you anytime between 8am and 9pm. Interrupt them mid-speech with the Magic Words, "I want to be on your do not call list." They will screech to a halt, because violations of this law is penalized per offense, $500 that their company would pay directly to you. In many cases, you'll be transferred to a supervisor to confirm your wishes.
  • The DMA also has an opt-out list for email solicitations; but I would never use it, since the ban is only for one year, and you've given a working email out in public.
  • If you own any stocks, go to your brokerage and get all the proxy statements, quarterly, and annual reports sent to you online instead of wasting all that paper.
  • Go to annualcreditreport.com to get free credit reports. You can get one per year per credit-reporting agency, so you could do it all at once, or get one report every four months from each agency. These reports do NOT list your FICO score. This is worthwhile. You can dispute obvious mistakes, but also more subtle errors that could affect your scores.
Each of these has a big pay off for relatively little effort. Do it!

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