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Stopping hoax junk mail

10th December 2012

I have received hoax letters for the past 4 days with someone elses name on and my address. we think its someone who is playing a joke on us because they have been filling coupons out from magazines and using this address. can you advise me what to do please?

Dr Junk Buster's answer: 

The most effective way to stop the hoax junk mail is by contacting the senders. Normally, you can force senders to leave you alone by sending them a data protection notice. In this case, however, that approach won't work. Section 11 of the Data Protection Act 1998 states that you can only force senders to stop (or not begin) using your personal data for 'direct marketing' purposes. Because the junk mail is addressed to someone else you can't fire off data protection notices to all the senders.

You can still mention the Data Protection Act when contacting senders. The fourth principle of the Act requires organisations to keep personal data adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed. In other words, junk mailers are by law required to make sure that their mailing lists don't contain junk data. If you advise a sender that you are receiving junk mail addressed to someone who doesn't live at your address the sender should, by law, update its database accordingly.

When you contact the senders you should ask them to also let you know whether or not the sender has shared the fake person's details with any other organisations. The person who subscribed the fake person to the junk mail probably won't have ticked any opt-out boxes that prevent senders from selling the name of the person to list brokers. The fake person's name and address are likely to be added to many more junk mail lists.

I'd suggest sending individual senders a standard e-mail or letter along these lines:

[ Your full name ]
[ Your full address ]

[ Today's date ]

Data Controller / Company Secretary
[ Organisation's full address ]

Dear Sir or Madam,

Inaccurate personal data

You recently sent 'direct mail' to [ the fake person's full name ] at my address. I would like to advise you that this person is unknown at this address.

It appears that someone has subscribed [ the fake person's full name ] to lots of 'direct mail' using my address. I am sure you will appreciate that the constant stream of mail addressed to [ the fake person's full name ] is becoming rather annoying. It is also a waste of your resources.

To help me stop the unwanted mail I would like you to do two things. Firstly, I need you to take [ the fake person's name ] off your mailing list. I understand the Data Protection Act 1998 requires you to make sure that personal data you process is accurate and up to date.

Secondly, I would like you to let me know whether or not you have shared [ the fake person's full name ] incorrect details with other organisations. If so, I would like to have the contact details for the organisation(s) you have shared the details with. This will enable me to prevent receiving mailings from other senders.

Please acknowledge receipt of this [ e-mail / letter ] and advise what action you will take to stop the unwanted mail. If you do not normally handle requests like this for your organisation, please pass this letter to your Data Protection Officer or another appropriate officer.

I thank you for your co-operation.

Yours faithfully,

[ Your name ]

In addition you may want to register the fake person's name with the Mailing Preference Service. This won't stop junk mail from senders who have been asked to send junk mail to the fake person but it should prevent that the person's name and address are passed from one junk mailer to the next.

If all this sounds like too much hassle you could instead return all the unwanted mail to the sender. Some senders will stop sending junk mail, others may need a couple of returns.

Last updated: 
10th December 2012