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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

How to Banish Spam Mail, Email, and Phone Calls From Your Life

I hate spam. You probably do, too. In fact, other than the dentist, I can’t think of anything else that people consistently have a bad experience with.

For years, I just grumbled and deleted it (or recycled it, for physical spam mail)—but this year, I decided enough was enough. After researching the options, I’ve found the solution to get rid of the three most common types of spam. The best part: Each step is quick and easy.

1. For Your Snail Mail: PaperKarma

This has been my favorite discovery of the last few months. Download PaperKarma on your phone (iOS and Android), then grab those credit card applications and dry cleaner mailers. When you log in to the app, you’ll see a big “Scan Mail” button. Take a photo of the spam mail you’ve received, tell PaperKarma the address it was sent to, and the company will take care of removing you from the mailing list. Simple as that.

For most big mailers (like credit card companies and airlines), you’ll be removed very quickly. If it’s a local neighborhood mailing, PaperKarma will need to add the new offender to its database, which might take a little longer. But for just one photo per spam mail, it’s well worth it to receive less over time.

2. For Your Email: and BoxBe

Folks who follow my productivity column already know how much I like Sign up with your primary email, and the site will pull together a list of all the newsletter lists you’re on. You’d be surprised how many there are that you never signed up for—and how many you did, but don’t want anymore. But with the click of a button, you can unsubscribe from any you wish.

If you’re getting lots of unwanted mail from individuals, you can also try BoxBe. BoxBe uses what it calls a personalized “Guest List” to ensure that you get email from people who matter to you, while screening messages from anyone else into a separate “Waiting List.” Anyone who isn’t on your Guest List will receive a request to verify their message before it is delivered to your inbox. If you get a lot of emails from important people you don’t know (like reporters or investors), this isn’t the ideal solution, but it can be a great gatekeeper for others.

3. For Your Phone Line: The National Do Not Call Registry

Unfortunately, phone calls from people you don’t want to hear from are a little harder to control, but there are rules in the U.S. about when telemarketers can and can’t call you.

If you add your home or cell phone for free on the National Do Not Call Registry, most telemarketers will cease to call your number within 31 days. If any continue to do so (and there are, sadly, always a few persistent spammers), you can easily file a complaint on the site.

As I learned, however, even if your number is registered, some organizations may still call you, including charities and political organizations, since they fall under different rules. My tip there would be to ask them to remove you from their phone list, and make a note of when you did so. For a full description of who may still call you, see the Registry’s Consumer FAQs.

Any other tips on how to get rid of spam? Share below in the comments!

Photo of mail slot courtesy of Rupert Ganzer.