How to stop junk mail, spam and unwanted telephone calls

Updated on 15 December 2017

Make spam emails, unwanted telephone calls and junk mail a thing of the past.

1. Join the Mailing Preference Service (MPS)

Reputable UK-registered companies use the database provided by the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) to filter out customers who do not wish to receive direct mail. To register for this free service, simply sign up at the MPS website.

You can also register your previous address, a previous occupier at your current address, and details of someone who has died.

2. Join the Telephone Preference Service (TPS)

The Telephone Preference Service is a free, opt-out service for unsolicited sales and marketing calls. It is illegal for organisations (including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties) to make calls to TPS-registered telephone numbers without your consent.

Sign up at the TPS website, but please note that this service takes 28 days to activate and will not stop calls from overseas.

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3. Join the Fundraising Preference Service

Introduced earlier this year, the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) gives you control over the communications you get from charities.

You can opt to stop email, telephone calls, addressed post and/or text messages directed to you personally from a selected charity or charities. However, you can only block up to three charities per request if you go online but you can block as many as you like in a single phone call. Blocks take 28 days to kick in so you may be contacted by the charity in the interim.

Either enter your details on the FPS website or call the helpline on 0300 3033 517.



4. Tell your existing providers

Although the MPS and TPS screen out unwanted contact, they do not stop direct mail or sales calls from organisations with which you already have an existing relationship.

In many cases, these businesses will have acquired your consent to receive sales and marketing calls, for example, when you made a previous donation to a charity.

To wipe out these unwanted letters, emails and calls, check your contact status with each organisation.

In many cases, you can do this online and then change your preferences to stop sales and marketing messages.

Otherwise, you may need to call, email or write to each organisation, asking for a 'do not call or mail' marker to be added to your personal details.

5. Tick the 'No contact' box

How to avoid unwanted calls, post and emails (Image: Shutterstock)

Be careful not to give permission to organisations to pass on your personal contact details to third parties. Otherwise, you could be bombarded by a constant stream of market-research enquiries, sales promotions and other annoying communications.

Whether you're online, on the telephone or on paper, always choose the 'no contact' option.

6. Return junk mail

Keep hold of a sheet of sticky labels with "Not at this address. Return to sender. Please remove these contact details from your database" printed on them. Use these to return unopened junk mail and letters addressed to previous occupants.

In most cases, legitimate companies get the message and stop wasting your time and their money by sending unwanted mail to your address.

7. Keep personal details secure

You never know exactly who is on the end of an unwanted telephone call, letter or email. It could be a criminal trying to dupe you into handing over sensitive financial information.

Therefore, never give out any personal data when responding to cold callers or emails. Instead, always contact organisations via publicly available telephone numbers and official websites.

Otherwise, you could fall foul of financial fraudsters.

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8. Recycle junk mail

When you're really fed up with junk mail, it's fun to 'pay it forward'.

You can do this by gathering up all the unwanted offers that fall on your doormat from pizza delivery businesses, estate agents, taxi firms, and home improvement companies.

When you've amassed a decent sheaf of leaflets, pop them into a reply-paid envelope and post this back to its sender.

This feels great, as it gets rid of all your junk leaflets and bumps up the offending company's postal charges.

9. Delete spam emails and texts

How to stop unwanted mail, calls and letters (Image: Shutterstock)

If you receive a genuine – but unwanted – email from a legitimate company, then by all means use the 'unsubscribe' option to remove yourself from this database.

However, if you suspect that an email or text message is nothing more than spam, then just delete it. It's simply not worth wasting your time dealing with dodgy spammers.

In fact, responding in any way merely flags up to unscrupulous companies that yours is an active address/number and will lead to yet more hassle.

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10. Have some fun

We strongly advise against being rude or offensive to unwanted callers. Hardened telemarketers shrug off such abuse, but it can leave you feeling stressed and upset.

Instead, why not have some fun with callers, while also wasting their time?

  • Ask the caller to hold, then put down the phone and leave it until they give in and hang up;
  • Claim to be long-lost friends and launch into a bizarre story about when you last met;
  • Insist that you're so hungry that you can't answer any questions until the caller has ordered your favourite meal for you;
  • Ask the caller to hold and then act out the most bizarre, noisy scene you can imagine, such as being abducted by aliens, eaten by giant snails, seeing a ghost, etc;
  • Ask for the caller's home number, so you can ring back later. When they say that you cannot call their home, you reply, "That is exactly my point!" and then hang up.

When confronted with such bizarre behaviour, most telemarketers give up within a minute.


11. Block calls

Lastly, if you've had enough of automated or silent calls - promoting such things as PPI (payment protection insurance), accident compensation, 'free' holidays or ways to ditch your debts -- then try a call-blocking service.

BT has recently launched Call Protect which monitors nuisance calls and automatically prevents them getting through to your phone by redirecting them to a junk voicemail. BT customers can get the service for free.

You can also create your own personal blacklist to send all future calls from unwanted numbers to your junk voicemail.

Alternatively, try a technological solution, such as the trueCall Nuisance Call Blocker, which Peter Jones rated as "the best idea he'd ever seen on Dragon's Den."

Finally, if you believe that you are being harassed by an organisation, then contact the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for advice. In extreme cases, the ICO can fine organisations up to £500,000 for breaking the UK's communication and data protection laws.

The ICO's helpline is 0303 123 1113 and is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Here's hoping you have a happier home life, free of irritating interruptions!


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