Frank Mezzatesta
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Privacy and Junk Mail

What about Privacy
Anyone who knows me well knows I am fanatical about privacy. Partly just to see if I can pull it off and partly because I resent "large companies" thinking they can make money selling my information. With the advent of the Internet I realized that my name was rather rare in the world so it was easy to search for me on the Internet.

If you own a house there is your name and address on the Internet. If you have a traditional landline phone, there is your phone number and there is your name and address again. If you apply for a permit to upgrade your house, there is your name and address again.

Of course if you sign up for any social media accounts, what you put but more important when others tag you with, that information is there.

Less about privacy and more about annoying mail, we would received countless catalogs and letters that were all solicitations. When you look at it, there is really a small volume of mail that is really useful for you. At least 75% is junk.

What to do?
So I took this as a challenge to resolve. As Barney Stinson says "Challenge Accepted!". So for other reasons we created a "living trust" where you put all your financial things in the trust. Now most people name their trust like the "Mezzatesta Family Trust". Wrong! We name ours some random name, the lawyer said, well no one does that but you can name it anything you want. So like the "Purple Avocado Trust". That's not what we picked by the way.

So great, we will be buying a new house and this fixes everything right, I asked the lawyer. Well no the house is recorded in the name of the trust with the trustee (my) name. Is there anything we can do? No was the answer!

So here is the golden question you ask at this moment. I have asked doctors, companies, and now this lawyer this question. What if I was a famous movie star, what would I do? Immediately she says, well you can appoint a "Special Trustee" for just buying your house and their name is on the deed (public record). So we did that, we picked a friend that is willing to help us. This costs no extra money, just a paragraph in the trust document. When we bought our new house it did drive the escrow company nuts until they understood how to handle this. They had never heard of this.

So every time we receive mail in our friends name, and there was a lot of it at the start, we knew where this information came from.

While I'm on the subject of mail. I wanted to figure out who was selling our address. Since we own a house, what I decided to do was to give everyone our address with a different made up apartment number, so 1501 main street #K1 for example. Whether it is just a number or letter and number is up to you, I have done both. You just have to keep a list of who you gave what to. Well the high level summary turned out that The IRS, banks, credit card companies did not give out my address. The worst was KCET, a PBS station. I got all sorts of junk mail from that one source. Non-profits are the worst. The next are any of those catalog companies you buy things from like Front Gate, The Fruit Company, etc.

I would call the offending company and ask why they did this. They usually said it wasn't them and you can't prove it. That is when I explained what I had done. There was a long pause and then, well... I stopped donating to KCET.

Back to the trust. The city will allow you to put the trust name as the "person" requesting the permit. Or if you have a contractor, they can use their name.

Don't have a land line or if you do you should pay the $5 a month for an unlisted number. These two items drastically reduced the occurrence of my name and address on the Internet.

So for mail, I take the time to call or go online and have our name taken off the companies mailing list. What you find is that when the first company sells you name to the second, the second then sells it to many others. So every time you take you name off one company, you are probably taking it off many. Even companies we buy from we do this and just use the online catalog.

I'm going for only getting mail that is for us where we don't have to throw any away.

Any advertisements with your address you can get removed from. Some of those flyers are harder but I have been removed from them. So now the killer EDDM. EDDM stands for Every Door Direct Mail. it is a way for the USPS to make more money. They allow anyone to send mail to lots of people with no name or specific address. You tell the USPS you want to, say, send your advertisement to everyone in zipcode 60302. I was told by one of these mailers that it cost less than half the price of regular mail. These letters are addressed to "postal customer". You can't get off these lists because there is no list. I'm presently trying to see if my regular mail carrier will skip my house for these. We will see if this works.

For websites, it turns out that almost all websites, even the aggregators like Radaris and True People Search will delete you record if you contact them. I did this before we had the trust, now when we moved recently I didn't have to do this.

In Summary
So in summary, the land line phone and publicly recorded deed were a must and it really worked to remove our name and address from the Internet. The mail thing is just something I do because as I said at the beginning, I'm a fanatic and it is fun messing with the world around me.

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