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Drowning in Junk Mail- How To Opt Out Of Junk Mail From Specialised Fundraising

Today we are going to be dealing with the underbelly of the fundraising world. The fake charity/fake sweepstakes. This is some very nasty stuff that should be illegal. It is a charity asking for money with the veneer of a sweepstakes.

Child Protection Program
PO Box 6119
St. Louis, MO 63139-0119

The first red flag is, that this “charity” has no website. It had one once according to Washington State, but it is now dead.

It is apart of Survivors and Victims Empowered. Which made the Tampa Bay Times Worst Charities list. It is run by Phil Sheldon, who is the son of the Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition. OMG! Get out of my mailbox Sheldon family!! The dad, the daughter and now the son. Charity Navigator page, unrated because it is sub 1 million dollars.

Both of these mailpieces are made by the same direct marketing firm: Specialized Fundraising. Website redirects to Info Group Media Solutions. Specialized Fundraising phone number (864) 579-7755 x111. Nextmark page for Specialized Fundraising. If that doesn’t work this is the Info Group Media Solutions contact page. I do not know if they are the same company of if they just bought the domain name.

You can look through their mailing lists here. You will find a lot of “sound a like” charities:

A Child Forever a program of Kids Wish Network
American Foundation for Disabled Children
Care for Our Wounded Soldiers a program of National Caregiving Foundation
Combating Children’s Cancer Foundatoin, a mailing program of Israel Children’s Cancer Foundatoin
Committee for Missing Children
Contest Cash (National Heart Council)
Healing Hero’s Network
Help the Vet
Israel Children’s Cancer Foundation
Kids Wish Network, Tampa Bay Times Worst Charities, AC360 part 1, AC360 part 2, AC360 part 3
Kids Wish Network Hero of the Month
Miracle Flights
National Caregivers Foundation
Sweepstakes Contributors To Alzheimer’s Research (National Alzheimer’s Council)
Sweepstakes Donors To A Diabetes Cause (Defeat Diabetes)
Welcome Home Hero a program of Healing Heros Network
Normally I would use a from 1500 to stop mail from these groups because they are sweepstakes. But save a stamp (or 10) and opt-out here. I recommend you send your email to someone on the List Management team. They got back to me very quickly.

From the “the internet never forgets” desk: How the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act of 1999 came to be.

Article by the New York Times about sweepstakes from 1998.

In 1998 Susan Collins and Carl Levin started a sub-committee hearings on sweepstakes in the mail.

CSPAN September 1, 1998

CSPAN March 8, 1999, Victims of sweepstakes junk mail testify.

CSPAN March 9, 1999 skip to 1 hour 5 minutes to see Susan Collins, Carl Levin, Dick Durbin, John Edwards, and, Arlen Specter grill the heads of American Family Enterprises, Reader’s Digest, Publishers Clearing House, and Time Inc., New Media (that is the magazine division) about the misleading sweepstakes mail they send out.

Full transcript of both hearings

One of the topics that comes up in testimony is people flying to Tampa Florida to collect their winnings from American Family Publishers. This happened so many times the St. Petersburg Times collected the stories on one page.

These are the bills they were trying to pass at the time:

Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act Senate bill 355, became a law
Deceptive Games of Chance Mailings Elimination Act of 1999 Senate bill 336, didn’t pass
The DMA guide to to the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act of 1999.

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Drowning in Junk Mail: Catalog Choice vs. PaperKarma

Before I start this review, the best way to get off a mailing list is to contact them directly. Email them, call them, harass them like they harass you. For this project that was just not an option. It would have been hundreds of emails and phone calls. Even with cut and paste my entire day would have been sending emails, and keeping track of responses. That is why I used both Catalog Choice and PaperKarma.

Also they count requests differently, Catalog Choice counts each request individually and PaperKarma lumps all the requests to each group together. So if I get 10 mailpieces from Citizens United, Catalog Choice would have 10 requests and PaperKarma would have 1 request. I am going to use the PaperKarma standard for this review to 1) lesson confusion and 2) so I don’t inflate the stats. The numbers are ridiculous enough without counting each piece of mail individually.

They essentially do the same thing: you enter junk mail into their system, they try to contact the junk mailer and ask for the junk mail to stop. The key to both of them is to maximize the system. Enter every piece you can. Leave a paper trail of what you have received. Use all the tools they give you. Don’t be passive about the process.
It works best on well established legitimate charities. It does not work as well on 501c(4)s, candidates running for office, and scams. They need to update their database more often. One great feature is: if you are still getting junk mail 90 days after your first request, you can file a complaint with Catalog Choice and they will pass it on to the FTC.

I used Catalog Choice from April to the end of July. I have 173 requests for individual groups on that service. I was imputing fewer and, fewer mailpieces because they either weren’t in the system or I would input a mailpiece but it wouldn’t go through to the company.

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Are You Drowning in A Junk Mail

This is a round up of my odyssey of trying to save an old woman (and my mail box) from junk mail. This is the quick easy version if you want to see the fun, and the thought process that went into this list, read the rest of the blog. I will be updating this page as I get better at stopping junk mail.

Before I started, I had to set up some rules for myself. This very easily could have become a money pit with me yelling at people everyday. Whenever I had the urge to start screaming at people, or start flinging junk mail across the room, out of frustration, I just went back to this list.

Step 1. I had to take a scorched earth strategy when attacking the junk mail. When you are getting 20+ pieces of junk mail a day, you just need to make it stop.

I recommend tossing all the mail in a big box and sorting through it once a week. That way you can really see who is sending the most stuff, and focus on them. Open everything, you will be getting free money, return address labels, stamps, calendars and, note pads. A lot of the cost of stopping the junk mail will be off set by these freebies.

You need to put up a shield of protection over your mailbox:

Sign up for DMAChoice this will stop everything that you or your elderly person has never given money to, either bought a product or given a donation. The updated list is sent out 4 times a year: January, April, July, and October. It will take 6 to 8 weeks after the the next update to see a difference in your mailbox. (Some people have interpreted this as my saying not to do this step. This is the number #1 thing you can do to stop junk mail. 99% of the people who find this blog will only need to do this and use PaperKarma. The problems come when you are trying to clean up 50+ years of junk mail mail like I am.)
If you are the legal guardian, or have Power of Attorney for a loved one use the Do Not Contact for Caretaker’s Registration (it has the same effect as the regular DMAChoice page)
You can also sign up for directmail.com‘s National Do Not Mail List. It is independent from DMAChoice.
Stop credit card offers: Opt-Out Pre-Screen or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) They are going to ask you for your Social Security Number. It is OK, that is the way the credit bureaus ID you.
Telemarketer InfoCision call them at (330)668-1400 or email them at infocis@infocision.com. They are called a telemarketer but they are so much more. They also do mailing list management for their clients. If you get a lot of phone calls from charities, more that likely it is these guys. Even if phone calls aren’t a problem contact them anyway.
If you are receiving mail for a person who has passed away, I have a post about stopping mail for a deceased person.
This next group are all data brokers. They turn your life into data points that are sold to direct marketers:

acxiom. They have gotten so much flak from people that they have made acxiom’s about the data so you can look yourself up. Go ahead and do it, then opt-out.
Epsilon.com AKA Abacus. They have a whole page about opting-out from them, but if you only want to opt-out of snail mail, email them here privacy@epsilon.com
LexisNexis opt-out of direct marking here.
ebureau opt-out here
If you want to go to the next level with opting out of data brokers and other data mining sites there is a lot more you can do.

Step 2. You have now put up a strong shield around your mail box. It is time to wait. It may take up to 3 months, to see a difference in your mail box. While you are waiting there are somethings you can do:

Step 3. Three months have passed, you can see a difference in the junk mail you get, but it is still to much. It is time to escalate your strategy.

Directly contact the company who is sending you stuff. That is a phone call and an email on the same day. I found calling to be way more effective than email. I also didn’t leave a message, unless there was an option in the phone tree for opting out of their mailing list.

Find out who their direct marketing firm is. The direct marketing firms that were sending the most stuff were American Target Advertising, HSP Direct, Base Connect, Response Unlimited.

How to research the people who make the junk mail.

If you didn’t get a reply from either the phone call or the email it is time to go to the next level. Contact the Ethics Board at the DMA and fill out an Ethics Complaint form. They will send a stern letter to the offender. My guide to filling out a DMA Ethics Complaint. You should also contact your state’s attorney general and file a complaint with them. The AG will also send a letter to the junk mailer asking them to stop. You need to leave a paper trail with as many people as possible. What they are doing is harassment. If enough people file complaints the “charity” and everyone they work with will get into trouble.

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