Junk Mail and What to do About It

Junk Mail and What to do About It

Does this sound familiar?  You walk into a senior’s home and there are stacks of unopened mail, catalogs everywhere you look, important files and documents mixed with the unimportant.  This is the scene in many senior’s homes and warning signs as they are vulnerable.  Americans receive about 90 billion pieces of junk mail each year!  One of the best ways to reduce the danger is to manage the junk mail.  Junk Mail comes in many forms:  catalogs, charity requests, credit card offers, sweepstakes, advertising postcards, magazine solicitations, political fliers, and more.  And every time someone fills out a product warranty card, purchases a home or vehicle, provides information to a lending institution, their information is likely given to credit card companies.  Receiving a lot of junk mail means the addressee is on the “sucker” list.  They are on multiple mailing lists and their information is sold over and over again to scammers.  There is a booming black market for this information.


And then there are the mail scams.  Some of the most common targeting seniors are: fake checks (see the FAQ page of www.fakechecks.org), phony sweepstakes, foreign lotteries, free prize or vacation scams, donation requests from charities or government agencies that don’t exist, get-rich chain letters, work-at-home schemes and inheritance and investment scams.  If the senior is getting any type of junk mail that is asking for money in exchange for gifts or winnings, or if they are receiving checks that require them to wire money, immediately call the U.S. Postal Inspector Service at (877) 876-2455 to report them then shred.  The Postal Inspection Service offers publications and videos on this topic (www.postalinspectors.uspis.gov).


What to Do:

Sort their mail

One of the best options is for you or someone you trust to sort the mail before the seniors sees it.  Seniors want to maintain control of their lives so they are likely to resist this effort.  Sort mail into categories:

  • First class mail (bills, statements, cards, letters)
  • Charity solicitations
  • Other mail in standard size envelopes (usually solicitations)
  • Catalogs
  • Fliers/Postcards
  • Magazines/newspapers (including community newspapers)

Give the senior the important first class mail, discuss charitable donations (see below), shred the label section with the name and address, give the senior the remainder.


Discuss charitable giving and create a plan

Work with the senior to determine a giving strategy that focuses on giving locally or to institutions they know such as a university.  Red Cross, Parkinson’s Alzheimers, Heart, Cancer, Habitat for Humanity, foodbanks and many other charitable organizations have local chapters. Giving locally means the funds will be spent directly for the cause.  Follow their wishes when sorting the mail.


Remove them from direct mail lists


These websites provide the service for free.  It can take 90 days to end the mailings and about five percent of direct mail companies/charities do not comply with the request.


You still need to be vigilant as companies and charities will call the senior and try to get them to give money or “opt-in” over the telephone.  Once a donation is made to a charity the person is automatically removed from the “opt-out” list as it the person who agrees to receive a “special offer”.


Fraud has permeated our daily lives, take action to keep the seniors in your life safe.