You have rights, although these days you might feel like you don't. Your privacy is under attack.
You're bombarded with unwanted robocalls. You receive dozens of emails every day from companies and people you don't know.
Your mailbox is jammed with direct marketing. There's so much junk mail in there that it's tough to find letters and bills.
It has been this way for so many years that you just shrug your shoulders and accept it. But you can do something about all this unwanted solicitation.
You can opt out, which simply means telling companies to take you off their list. The odds are that your name, phone number and mailing address are in databases that are maintained by marketers.
Here are five ways to stop these phone calls and direct marketing ads from taking over your life. Be prepared, though, because you'll need to set aside several minutes or even an hour or more to opt out of some of these, but it will be worth it.
1. Phone calls
We all deal with this every day and night. Your home phone rings and rings and rings.
Of course, marketers who have your phone number know that you'll be home at dinner time. So, just as you're cooking or sitting down to relax with your family, the phone rings.
You might know that the Federal Trade Commission has a do-not-call list. You can easily sign up to have your name removed from companies trying to solicit your business.
How to opt out: Call (888) 382-1222 or visit the website www.DoNotCall.gov.
Note: Companies that you have done business with can still call you. When they call, let it go to voicemail. They are supposed to provide a phone number you can call to opt out. Call that number to get off their database.
2. Direct mail
The Direct Marketing Association represents many, but not all the companies who stuff your mailbox with junk mail. The DMA doesn't want you or anyone else to dislike its members.
So, they will help you get off distribution lists. You have a few choices to opt out, some of which are free and some of which have a fee.
How to opt out: Start with opting out of email for free. Go to www.DMAChoice.org/index.php#.
To opt out of mail delivered to your home, for a fee of $2 to $3, you can take your name off mailing lists for several years. Go to www.DMAChoice.org/register.php.
There are other free options to take your loved ones off mailing lists if they are deceased or in your care. Go to www.ims-dm.com.
3. Credit Card and Insurance Offers
You can get a good feel for the health of the economy by how jam-packed your mailbox is with offers for pre-approved credit cards or insurance. You may remember that, during the recent recession, those offers got scarce.
Those companies knew that a lot of people were struggling with bills and house payments. Now, the economy is stronger and those offers are back!
You can opt out of receiving offers where you're pre-qualified. Credit card companies and insurers contact the credit bureaus for names of people like you who meet their criteria to be approved.
How to opt out: Call (888) 567-8688 or go to www.OptOutPrescreen.com/?rf=t.
Companies sending you emails are required by law to tell you that they're soliciting your business. They must also provide a way for you to opt out of their emails, typically with a link to do so. There should also be a mailing address.
Of course, the problem with this is that reputable companies will comply, but most email spam comes from un-reputable companies. Do NOT click on links.
How to opt out:
Find the company's website and call the phone number listed there - ask them to take you off their mailing list.
Companies that follow the Can-Spam rules will have the following information in their email: The word, "advertisement" and a mailing address.
Tip in a Tip: For more information about Can-Spam, to go the FTC site www.FTC.gov/spam.
5. Social media
Most of the large, reputable social media networks give you options to protect your privacy. On Facebook, for example, go to Account >> Settings >> Privacy from the menu on the left-hand side >> carefully read through your privacy settings.
Other social media platforms have similar privacy settings. Take your time to ensure your privacy is protected.
Keep secrets with these clever privacy gadgets
Your privacy is important to you. After all, hackers and criminals are constantly trying to steal your ID, Social Security number and your money.
The good news is, there are simple tricks you haven't thought of to keep your family and you safe. Trust me, don't skip No. 2.