My wife walked out on me nearly nine months ago. She requested a redirection of her mail, which worked well for six months. However, for the past two months I get, on average, two items of mail addressed to her each day. My wife refuses to reinstate the redirection service. I contact the senders and ask them to stop and they are generally co-operative. However the unwanted mail keeps coming. It has been suggested to me that these businesses are getting her name and address from an agency who sell on details on request but I have no way of knowing how to find out who's doing it. When I get told I can't stop mail that isn't actually addressed to me I say she has died recently. That does the trick in the short term but does not solve the distribution of details issue. Can you help?
What surprises me is that, in your experience, contacting a sender is usually sufficient to stop further mailings from that sender. People often tell me they find it impossible to get companies to stop sending mailings. Also, if all the mailings come from different companies your wife's details must be listed on a truly astonishing number of mailing databases. So much so that I reckon it's possible that someone is actively subscribing her to receiving junk mail at your address, either as a practical joke or to annoy you.
You are almost certainly correct that your wife's name and (incorrect) address are being sold by list brokers. When someone expresses an interest in receiving 'direct mail' and hasn't ticked the (always carefully hidden) opt-out box(es) to prevent his or her details are sold you can be sure that person's name will be added to various junk mail databases. There's no way to find out which companies are trading your wife's details. (If they were trading your name you could find out using a 'subject access request').
One thing you can do is registering your wife's name at your address with the Mailing Preference Service. Companies that are members of the Direct Marketing Association will check whether or not any people on its mailing list are registered with the Mailing Preference Service. Don't hold your breath though; there are a great many companies that are not a member of the Direct Marketing Association and if your wife has asked the sender to be sent junk mail your registration will not stop the mailings (a request to receive junk mail always overrides a registration with the Mailing Preference Service).
The Data Protection Act can help stop the junk mail but only in cases where a sender refuses to stop sending the junk mail. The companies that have told you it's not possible to stop junk mail addressed to a previous occupant are wrong. The Data Protection Act states quite clearly that organisations are have to make sure that personal details they hold are accurate and kept up to date. Sending your wife's mail to your address is a breach of the Data Protection Act. Rather than telling such companies that your wife has died you could lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office. I've written about this in more detail on Diary blog.
In short, preventing the junk mail is very difficult but you can force companies not to send any further mailings. I realise that's not much help as that's already what you're doing.