How do I get my Dad off these horrible scam mailing lists?
July 7, 2016 1:57 PM   Subscribe

My dad gets a dozen mailers a week from horrible scam companies promising to "renew his manly vigor". How to stop them?

My father had prostate cancer several years ago and now suffers from Alzheimer's Disease. His judgment has been impaired for a few years now, and unbeknownst to me, he started researching online cures for his erectile dysfunction and memory issues. He bought some pills from some of these companies, and he got on a mailing list, and now dozens of different companies are sending him materials.

Now he's in memory care and I've switched his mailing address to my house so I can track his finances and so forth. But I'm inundated with mailers from bullshit companies that promise to fix his ED or restore his memory. The sex mailers are the worst: they're actually porn, with explicit photos inside and very suggestive material on the outside. (I'm actually embarrassed to have the USPS person see them!)

I signed up with the Direct Marketing Association, and with PaperKarma, an app that will unsubscribe you from mail. But these companies are so shady they don't pay attention to the professional organizations, and they ignore the PaperKarma requests (although the charitable organizations appear to comply).

The USPS has a form that will tell people to stop sending you porn, but (a) you have to send each piece of offending mail to USPS separately with its own form; and (b) I don't believe they'll stop.

How do I make this stop? Do I have to call them all individually? Every week it's a new company! Or am I just stuck with it indefinitely?
posted by suelac to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Ugh! Those companies are just terrible.

You could go through the motions with the USPS, but when my parents had a similar issue from dealing with shady vitamin companies, I found it more satisfying to mail back their shitty ads in their postage pre-paid envelopes (tear off your dad's name and address first). For the more persistent companies, you could also update your dad's address to an imaginary one like 1234 First Street... it'll take a few months, but they'll dwindle down eventually.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 2:37 PM on July 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

...he started researching online cures for his erectile dysfunction and memory issues. He bought some pills from some of these companies, and he got on a mailing list...

And, I'm afraid, he's never going to get off their lists. He's flagged as being real and willing to spend money. Eventually, they'll slow down.

Have you started getting spam phone calls for your dad?
posted by Thorzdad at 3:14 PM on July 7, 2016

Response by poster: Have you started getting spam phone calls for your dad?

No, he's still getting calls at his own number. But since he doesn't have a working credit card number anymore, I figure there's not much damage that can be done.

We're doing better than many people and are able to protect him pretty well, but the way the elderly are taken advantage of is appalling. I want to hurt those people.
posted by suelac at 3:19 PM on July 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Stay vigilant with the phone. My co-worker's mother-in-law spent thousands and thousands on Jamaican lottery scams. After they took her credit cards away, the scammers still kept calling, and she'd head out to the grocery store and buy money orders or gift cards to send them.

I used to do the same thing LuckySeven~ does because they have to pay the post office for every one of those postage-paid envelopes that gets used. I used to put company x's form in company y's envelope and vice versa, just to be extra annoying.
posted by Don Pepino at 3:42 PM on July 7, 2016

Ask the mail carriers to just recycle them instead of delivering them. If that doesn't work, just put a recycling bin outside with a "Please put porn mail in here" sign and ask them to do that.

You can, in theory, tape the pre-paid envelope to a brick and mail that back to them as well.
posted by Slinga at 3:43 PM on July 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not bricks.
posted by tilde at 4:57 PM on July 7, 2016

Do they come with prepaid envelopes to return? Print off several copies of a note telling them to remove that name from your list permanently, buy a bulk container of cheap glitter, enjoy some small satisfaction...
posted by kmennie at 6:02 PM on July 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Every penny they waste sending this junk to you is a tiny chip out of their profits, if that gives you any satisfaction. If they don't provide an easy way for you to stop them from inundating you with pornmail, then you're probably justified in taking any petty revenge you can dream up re: business reply envelopes. Be imaginative.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:39 PM on July 7, 2016

Best answer: My father died in 2014, and I had to do a change of address to get his remaining mail delivered to my address. I'm not dealing with porn, but despite the efforts of my sister and me, he donated to a lot of charities (some of them quite questionable), and so I was inundated with mail from them for a while, with all the return address labels, junky key chains and pens I would ever (not) need ... sigh.

I put his name as deceased everywhere I could, and opted out of any mail I could, but since he had donated they felt free to ignore those lists and kept on sending mailings. I started returning them in the postage paid envelopes with a note indicating he was deceased and would not be donating further. That worked with some. Some I actually used my own postage to send back and ask to be taken off the mailing list. A few are quite persistent still though and I've had to resort to actually calling a few (just called one of the more reputable charities today).

I have found it does usually help if you indicate the person is no longer able to spend money. They are sending stuff to get money out of people, and if they don't get money back it behooves them to take people off of their mailing lists. As you have feared though those mailing lists get sold around so it can take a while for things to change. I've tried to make it clear that my household will give these people money when hell freezes over, so they should not waste their time sending these mailings, but almost 2 years after his death, and despite a fair amount of effort, I'm still getting some stuff. (Let's not even talk about having to try to cancel all the magazines he subscribed to ....)

Sorry not to have easier advice for you.
posted by gudrun at 6:40 PM on July 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's illegal for mail carriers to throw out junk mail for you, so don't ask them to do that. They could be fired and even criminally charged if they do that.

As far as making it stop, I haven't found a solution to that. My dad died in the 90s and he never lived at this address, but I get scammy mail for him all the time.

When it's really bad, crossing over into outright fraud, I sometimes forward it to the postmaster and hope they do something about it. Usually, though, I'll either return any return envelopes, as others have mentioned (and I will be picking up some glitter now too), or just throw it away and not even bring it into the house.

For the most part, though, I haven't found anything even remotely reliable to make it stop. Maybe one company here and there, but people are selling a list with his name on it, and those people have nothing to gain from taking anyone off.

And not to brag or anything, but we're friends with our mailman, so I get to hear mail carrier stories, and "some guy getting scammy porn ads" would not come close to making the cut. He deals with harassment (sexual and regular), packages that start dripping goo in his truck, people who leave all their mail in the box until it's all just bug infested papier mache, and of course daily encounters with road rage on his route. You'd have to do a lot worse than just some porny junk mail to even get his attention.
posted by ernielundquist at 6:58 PM on July 7, 2016

Some guidance here; you can report scammers to the US Postal Inspection Service. (Not sure what they can do about companies mailing from Germany etc.) In Canada, prize scams (I guess only?) can be reported here.

These companies/people really are the absolute lowest of the low, I share your frustration.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:11 PM on July 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Coming at this from a different angle:

If you use a mail forwarding service, they will throw out his junk mail automatically, and deliver his real mail on whatever schedule you want (e.g. weekly) to whatever address you want (yours?). Some places will even open & scan the mail and email it to you. Just file a regular address change with the USPS.

Here's one example of a widely used service but there are dozens of them. RVers use them when they travel a lot, so you can look at RV forums for reviews.
posted by AFABulous at 7:01 AM on July 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

But since he doesn't have a working credit card number anymore, I figure there's not much damage that can be done.

Does he have a working checking account? Scammers will gladly help him find and read the routing number off a check.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:49 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

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