FOX 11 Investigates: Reducing the "flow of junk mail"
(WLUK) -- An Appleton man says he's being bombarded with junk mail for people who never even lived in his home.
Ron Borkowicz was trying to do what any good son would do: take care of the bills for his aging parents.
He ended up receiving a whole lot more.
"This is just from the last 6-8 weeks," Borkowicz said as he showed FOX 11 several grocery bags filled with junk mail.
It's all being delivered to his Appleton home and it's addressed to his parents Frank and Dorothy.
There's just one problem: his parents never lived in Appleton. They lived 150 miles away in Eagle River.
Last year, Frank passed away. Dorothy now lives in a long term care facility.
"I had the post office forward all the mail to my house in Appleton here so I could get all the bills," Borkowicz said.
Borkowicz got more than just the bills.
“It was all third class, people looking for money, some non-profit groups, some not. I'd get six or eight pieces a day each time. It started growing. My wife and I were laughing, I came in with a lot of mail and she said, how much of that is ours? We counted it. There were 16 pieces and there were two of them for us,” Borkowicz said.
Borkowicz kept track of the groups sending the mailers, all 134 of them. He wondered how so many organizations got the new address for his parents.
How does something like that happen?
FOX 11 Investigates contacted the U.S. Postal Service but they would not do an on camera interview with us.
In an email, a USPS spokesman said "The Postal Service does not sell or rent personal customer information to outside parties, including marketers."
But the spokesman also says: "The change-of address information is provided to mailers who are already in possession of the customer's name and old address, when there is a valid change-of-address order on file that matches the name and old address."
Borkowicz says he didn't expect that to happen.
"I just thought it was really weak though of the post office," Borkowicz said.
Frank Frassetto is the administrator of Wisconsin's consumer protection agency.
"They specifically say, 'we do not sell lists.' However, they do provide services that help ensure the accuracy of lists," Frassetto said.
“When the U.S. Postal Service updates their list, because they want to make sure they have an accurate list, any time the next direct marketing firm says we need to verify the accuracy of our list again, they're going to get that new address,” Frassetto added.
We showed Frassetto the situation Borkowicz is dealing with.
"You gotta be kidding me,” he said.
We also showed it to Pat Finder-Stone, an advocate for seniors with AARP.
“Oh, I believe that,” she said.
Finder-Stone says this is a pretty common issue today.
“It's a very big problem,” Finder-Stone said.
She says some organizations are taking advantage of older adults.
“I think there is a certain amount of preying upon people,” Finder-Stone said. “I think older people are more trusting. We grew up in a society where you trusted everyone and it's not so these days.”
The question is what can be done about it?
“Once you're on a list, you're on a list for an awfully long time,” Frassetto said.
Borkowicz says he sent letters to each of the 134 companies three separate times asking them to stop sending mailers.
“Out of 134 different companies doing this, there were only five of them that responded to me, sent a nice letter of condolences, said they would stop it. It might be in the computer for another issue or two. But they'll stop it and they have,” Borkowicz said. “Two of the people that contacted me offered their condolences and then they included a self-addressed envelope and someplace where I could still make a donation to their organization. It just doesn't stop.”
Frassetto says a better way to handle the issue is to contact the Data Marketing Association, a group that represents nearly 3,600 companies. Frassetto says people can register online and significantly reduce the amount of junk mail they receive.
He also recommends people visit www.optoutprescreen.com, a website run by the major credit agencies. He says there you can eliminate many of the financial solicitations for things like credit cards and insurance
“You can reduce the flow of junk mail and you should take advantage of that as best you can,” Frassetto said.
Borkowicz says he's just ready for the junk mail to stop.
“It gets really frustrating after a while,” he said.
Borkowicz says he's been receiving this unwanted mail for nearly a year. He's finally noticing a decline in the amount of junk mail he's receiving. He also says he will try the expert’s advice and see if that solves the problem for good.