It started with annoying phone calls late in the evening. Then it became a string of unwanted emails crowding your inbox. And now just about everyone has to deal with a deluge of rude texts, automated voicemails, and piles and piles of junk mail. Regardless of how they do it, spammers just want a chance at your money and they could care less about your peace of mind.
Believe it or not, but this kind of unwanted advertising tends to be illegal. There are laws that prevent companies from direct, personal contact unless you have asked for it. But simply knowing this won’t stop the flood of spam and phone calls. Fortunately, there are powerful tools, both legal and web-based, that stop spam in its tracks.
The National Do Not Call Registry
This Do Not Call List, created by the FCC and FTC, is national in scope and managed by two major government organizations, giving it extra clout among businesses. The list lets you register phone numbers to prevent calls from many companies. It does not affect companies that you have previously conducted business with, companies you have given permission to call you, or nonprofits. So while the list isn’t foolproof, it is still very effective at preventing unwanted phone calls. If you have not signed up, do so immediately and stop the vast majority of telemarketing attempts.
Spam filters search incoming email messages and only let messages through that appear legitimate. In many ways they work like search engines, focusing on specific spam-related terms like money, breakthroughs, and key warning phrases. The filters then assign the email an overall score. If the score is high enough, the message is dumped into a spam bin and eventually deleted.
If you are getting lots of spam, check the filter parameters on your email client. Most modern email services, like Gmail, have their own spam filters that work automatically but also allow you to tag certain email addresses or topics as spam. You may not need additional filters if your initial ones are updated to keep up with changing tactics. Just make sure they update often, as spam is an ever-changing thing. If you are dealing with a serious spam problem, consider programs like Spamfighter Pro or Cloudmark DesktopOne Pro, which let you create “black” and “white” lists which are then strictly enforced. Both programs also let you tap into online communities that work to find lasting spam solutions.
In addition to spam blockers and national efforts, there are a number of organizations that can help you get rid of annoying spam issues. For example, the three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax – strive to make opting out as easy as possible. Simply calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT and providing your personal information can put a stop to pre-approved credit offers across all three bureaus. Opting out will remove your name from any lists that the bureaus keep for the marketing divisions of other companies.
Websites like 41pounds work to stop junk mail on behalf of the environment and will contact companies for you for $35. They claim that they are able to remove 80 to 95 percent of your unwanted physical mail. When it comes to phone spam, if you use AT&T, you can pay for their Smart Limits program, which stops unwanted texts. Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile offer similar services for no charge. If you have an Android phone, there are a number of apps like Anti-SMS Spam designed to protect your phone and your privacy.
If you find yourself on a marketing list, try contacting the company in question. Capital One, GAP, and many other corporations have opt-out systems in place. Even when a company lacks a specific system, a simple phone call can sometimes solve the problem.
Why wait to stop spam and phone calls? If you have not yet taken steps to protect yourself from these annoyances, start today. Our digital world makes action easier than ever before, and you have a right to your privacy. More information can be found at: