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Thursday, October 11, 2007


Although not biblical, the headline does portray the story of how your name is sold once you have made that junk mail purchase. And that process restarts each time you embark on a new shopping venture with another order through catalogs or other junk mail advertising. Depending on your zip code, how much you spend, and a host of other criteria, your name and personal data could be sold from 25 to 50 times each year. Per junk mail purchase. According to, a non-profit organization concerned with junk mail’s effect on the environment, as a result of the sale of your sensitive data, you receive 10.8 pieces of junk mail weekly, which adds up to around 560 each year. You also want to consider that with each of those weekly mailings, your name and private information move through at least five additional transitional events like computer houses, transportation carriers, mail houses, etc., before the junk mail arrives at your address. That adds up to 54 incidents per week, 2,800 for the year. Each providing the opportunity for identity thieves who have escalated their attention now toward the more sophisticated approach of planning the heist, rather than just letting it fall into their lap. Junk mail industry publication, DM News, in an article earlier this year, made the statement: “Studies show that 70 percent of the U.S. population prefers direct mail to e-mail or phone calls.” My gut feeling is that nearly 100 percent of the population prefers anything other than junk e-mail and phone calls. The study also found that additional consumer reaction objected to junk mailers who sent them “way too much mail.” And then there’s the Direct Marketing Assn. (DMA)—who is holding its annual convention in Chicago this weekend—where I posed a recent question to their privacy dept. asking how a junk mailer would handle the selling of a person’s name, if the customer had opted-out with the company selling the name. This is an area in which I think junk mail companies might be lax, as far as updating their lists and one that could produce an enormous amount of unwanted mail. Marsha Goldberger, Director, Corporate Responsibility for the DMA, replied with: “DMA members are required to abide by our Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice, which address your opt-out question.” You can look at the “Guidelines” yourself by clicking on the highlighted area and scrolling to article #31, but I will also provide a capsule version here. The regulations say any opt-out names should be removed from all lists, and consumers who do not want junk mail should not be sold to other junk mailers. The definition of “should” from is: “plan to, intend to, or expect to.“ I’ll let you determine DMA member compliance based on the number of pieces of junk mail you receive weekly and annually. I’ve been saying it all week but it is downright distressing that at the DMA exhibition starting on October 13 at McCormack Plaza West in Chicago, more time will not be devoted to junk mail’s major contribution to the ID theft crisis. It is becoming more and more obvious each day that the industry will have to be forced into acceptance of the fact that consumers should have control over their names and personal data, and be compensated when it is sold. And that may very well require federal legislation.

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