How to Return Junk Mail to the Sender

By Jill Harness

Updated May 17, 2019

You can reduce junk mail by removing your name from national mailing lists.
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Junk mail isn't just a hassle to deal with. It is also bad for the environment because it wastes paper and gas by having the post office deliver it to your home or office. To make matters worse, junk mail often contains personal details that can open you up to identity theft if it is stolen. While you can just shred unwanted mail after receiving it, sending it back to the sender is one of the ways to hopefully reduce the amount of junk mail you receive.

Why Return Junk Mail?

While reports vary, some people swear that using the USPS options to return to sender with junk mail will reduce the amount of junk mail you receive in the future. Although some people say that credit card companies and other institutions sending junk mail are too stubborn to stop sending special offers and other unsolicited junk mail you didn't sign up for, sending it back to the sender requires the company sending it to pay for the return postage, so you're at least giving them a financial reason to stop sending the junk mail.

Return to Sender: Junk Mail

There are two ways to return your junk mail to the sender. The first is to use a "refused: return to sender" stamp (or just write these exact words) on the envelope of your junk mail as soon as you get it. This will result in the post office sending the letter right back to the company that sent it.

Alternatively, you can use the business reply mail envelopes included in your preapproved offer or other unwanted mail. The company has to pay for these envelopes to be delivered back to them. Just stuff the entire offer (don't fill out any information before doing this) into the envelope and send it back. If you want to increase the amount the company will have to pay for the reply envelope, you can even add shredded paper from other junk mail you've received.

You may choose to add a note on the inside or outside of the business reply mail envelope to tell the company that you do not want to receive their unsolicited offers, but this will probably not reduce the likelihood that they will take you off the list, and they'll probably get the hint either way.

Other Options for Junk Mail

Sending mail back to the sender isn't the only option for attempting to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. You can also try registering online with the Direct Marketing Association, or DMA, to reduce junk mail sent to your home since this will remove you from many mailing lists.

You can also register with Valassis online or by calling 1-800-437-0479. Valassis sends out many of the circulars sent to homes. This registration should remove you from their list for five years, but you will need to reregister after five years or whenever you move.

Register online with Catalog Choice to reduce the number of unsolicited catalogs you receive. If you continue to receive catalogs, you may need to call the specific company that sent the catalog and request to be removed from their list. Similarly, you can contact specific businesses that send you unwanted mail to request to be taken off their list. Also, you can call the credit reporting companies at (888) 5-OPT-OUT to ask them to stop giving your information to banks and credit card companies, reducing the number of preapproved credit card offers you get.