How to Cut Down on All Kinds of Junk Mail

Here's what you can do, to keep the digital junk mail at bay.

Activate Spam blockers that your e-mail provider offers or set your Inbox security to "exclusive." You can choose whether 1) the service will move messages that seem suspicious straight to your Spam or Junk folder, or 2) it'll only permit messages from senders in your address book or those you indicate are "safe" into your Inbox. You'll have to review the Spam folder periodically to make sure messages you want to receive aren't being sent there by mistake. (You can easily mark them as "not junk," and they'll pop right into your Inbox.)

Enable image or content blocking. This prevents the images (also called "content") in a message from downloading simply because you've opened it. Those images often contain tracking software, which beams back info as soon as they're viewed, so spammers know they've hit an active e-mail account. If you do want to see the message in its entirety, you'll have the option to fully download it.

Never click on links in junk e-mails -- not even (or, really, especially!) ones that claim they'll unsubscribe you. Clicking anywhere in a Spam message is another surefire way to alert spammers that your account is a valid one. Same goes for opening their attachments (which can also invite viruses onto your computer).

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Be skeptical. Don't open suspicious or unsolicited email -- just delete it. If you get any e-mail that asks you to click here, download this, or confirm personal info, don't do it (unless you're expecting the message) without first checking that the sender is legit. If a message looks a little off but appears to come from someone you know, send him or her a new e-mail (don't reply!) and ask if he or she meant to send it -- his or her account could have been hacked.

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Still seeing lots of junk mail in your mailbox at home?

Take these steps to try to cut down yours:

Remove your name from direct-marketing lists. The Direct Marketing Association, through its DMAChoice program, allows you to "manage" the catalogs and advertisements you receive from its members, which it states account for 80 percent of the offers Americans receive by mail. Registering with the organization -- and opting out of everything -- should therefore, in theory, reduce junk mail by 80 percent.

Ask credit card companies to leave you alone. Their offers make up the bulk of my unwanted mail. I'll register with the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry's This service is a joint venture of the four major credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion -- so telling them "thanks, but no thanks" should do the trick. (Tip: Though it asks, you don't need to enter your social security number into the form.)

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Stop "resident" mail. This one will prove more challenging, mainly because you may pay even less attention to letters from parties who haven't bothered to "buy" your name. The DMA should help, but you should also ask the folks at Val Pak to kindly keep their blue envelopes to themselves.

It's best to shred anything that has your name on it, and imperative to do so for credit card offers and any other mail that has private information. If you find the task tedious, take this advice: Throw a paper-shredding party!

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