Smartphone app zaps paper-based junk mail

Paper Karma gets rid of some, not all, junk mail

LITTLETON, Colo. - For Megan Storhaug, the walk to the mailbox is filled with dread.

"I really do loathe junk mail. It annoys me,” said Storhaug. “I dread checking my mail for this reason."

Junk mail now clutters Megan Storhaug's Littleton kitchen and her life.

“Comcast, Geico, American Express. Here’s my number one enemy – Dish Network,” said Storhaug, as she sorts through her latest pile.

The new mom really wants to simplify, and her husband wants to cut waste and protect their family from identity theft.

"It's a lot of paper. It just seems like a complete waste," said Brook Storhaug. "This has our information on it. I try to rip it up, but it gets to be too much, when you're constantly having to worry about that."

Enter Paper Karma, a free app for smart phones that is designed to stop unwanted mail, and there is a lot of unwanted mail out there.  Last year, advertising mail represented nearly 61 percent of all household mail in the United States, from catalogs to credit card offers.

The app is simple to use, only requiring a picture of the unwanted mail. Then, with a few clicks, users can unsubscribe from the distributor’s list.

"In certain cases, the law requires companies comply and remove your name from databases," said Sean Mortazavi, CEO of Paper Karma.

He has built a massive database of companies and their privacy officers – the people who take names off mailing lists.

He said what they’re doing is good for everyone.

"My sister used to be a hairstylist.  And I still get a lot of curler and hair dryer catalogs for my hair,” said Mortazavi, pointing to his bald head. "You probably don't want to waste hundreds of dollars in catalogs sent to me."

The app warns that it can take anywhere from two weeks to three or four months to see results.

The app does not work for what’s called “Every Door Direct Mail,” mail sent to every home in a zip code or neighborhood that often are addressed to “Current resident.”

“We don’t have a name to take off a list in that case,” said Mortazavi.

Paper Karma’s website boats of the app’s success, showing letters from companies removing people from their contact lists.

7NEWS got success notices from the app within 24 hours.

The Storhaug family hopes to see those same results soon, so the next trip to the mailbox won’t be such a nightmare.

"I don't want to deal with it,” said Megan Storhaug. “Unless it's appointments or other important things, this is just all junk."

The Postal Service sent this response to this story:

"Direct Mail is a form of advertising that works. The largest senders of Direct Mail are local businesses -- your local car mechanics, restaurants, hair stylists and realtors. Advocacy groups, religious groups, and local charities also uses Direct Mail to promote gift-giving. If you stop all Direct Mail, you won't be able to pick and choose. Direct Mail generates more than $870 billion in commerce annually and directly supports more than 11 million jobs."