There are few things more annoying than junk mail, spam and unsolicited calls and text messages. Not only are these unwanted communications an annoyance, but they can potentially lead to identity theft.
But how do you stop them? While it’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate junk mail, spam text messages and unwanted phone calls, BBB recommends taking the following steps for getting your inboxes and phone lines under control.
Unwanted mail shouldn’t cost you your identity. Pre-approved credit card offers are an easy target for identity thieves who can steal incoming mail and use these offers to open fraudulent credit accounts. Stopping these pre-screened credit offers can help reduce the chances of identity theft. U.S. consumers can “opt-out” of receiving pre-approved credit card offers for at least five years by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit: optoutprescreen.com. This service is offered by the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Stop unwanted direct mail solicitations. To discontinue most mailings, consumers can go to dmachoice.org and opt out of mail from members of the Direct Marketing Association. DMA regularly updates its database; however, it may take up to six months before solicitations from all DMA members stop.
Has your evening been interrupted by telemarketers? You’re not alone. The U.S. government’s National Do Not Call Registry is a free, easy way to reduce the telemarketing calls you get at home. To register your phone number or to get information about the registry, visit donotcall.gov, or call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register. You will get fewer telemarketing calls within 31 days of registering your number. Keep in mind, however, that the National Do Not Call Registry does not limit calls by political organizations, charities or telephone surveyors. Most business-to-business calls are also exempt.
Are you receiving spam text messages (a.k.a. smishing)? First and foremost, don’t respond. Responding to the text message only confirms a working number and opens the door for more messages. If your number is already on the Do Not Call Registry and you’re still receiving messages and phone calls, file a complaint with the FCC and consider downloading the PrivacyStar app. BBB National Partners AT&T and Verizon have partnered with PrivacyStar to give you back control of your smartphone. The smartphone application, available in the U.S. for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone, lets you block unwanted numbers, look up unknown numbers, and file a complaint with the FTC. You can also forward the text to 7726 (SPAM) to alert your phone provider and to stop future smishing attempts from that number.
While prevention is definitely a major part of the cure, there’s no guarantee these measures will stop all attempts. An unethical individual or organization is not likely to abide by laws or regulations. Remember to alert your local BBB office so that we can notify the proper authorities as well as your neighbors.
For more tips you can trust, visit bbb.org. To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline at 903-581-8373.