The letter seemed official, with its fancy logo and letterhead, certified customer ID number and legitimate return address. Additionally, it came from Plano, Texas, where we lived for five years, and while that detail was probably a coincidence, it was enough to keep me reading.

Unbeknownst to me, but definitely known to the letter writer, I was apparently remiss in activating a vehicle service contract. Reading of this missed-target claim immediately triggered my deadline tic, as I hate being late for anything. When the next sentence emphasized that I would be responsible for paying for repairs if my factory warranty had expired, my heart began to pound.

What repairs was I missing? What service contract did I sign up for? Did my decade-old Civic ever even have a factory warranty? Sure, the little orange wrench icon had been flashing on my dashboard for a month, but didn’t that just mean my tires needed air? Or my oil should be changed? Or that I was supposed to pick up some tools from Home Depot?

I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me a couple of times through the letter to ascertain that it was a ploy designed to convince the overly responsible to call a helpful salesperson who could fix a problem. And by “fix a problem” I mean “try to sell you something expensive you don’t need.”

I usually have pretty good deceptive advertising radar, but long gone are the days of companies sending postcards proclaiming, “Buy this life-changing product!”, instantly identifying themselves as candidates for the recycle bin. Also disappearing are the typo-filled, ALL CAPS YELLING, somewhat incoherent letters anyone can immediately identify as less-than-honest.

These easy-to-spot trickeries are being replaced – at least in my mailbox – by sophisticated, surprisingly well-written letters. Said correspondence uses fear to convince recipients that they are in danger of who-knows-what if they don’t immediately call the provided toll-free number.

Our country has been awash in fear mongering for quite some time now, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that it’s moved onto mailers. But honestly, these letters are getting on my Very. Last. Nerve. (All my other nerves were destroyed in the 2016 election.)

They cause my stress receptors to rise because I just know that the one time I think a letter is false advertising and toss it away, it will turn out to be super legitimate and I’ll have missed my one and only chance of getting a free baby elephant.

Who needs this worry? Certainly not me and probably not you. So, as a service to the entire community, I’ve developed the following template that can be used to respond to any deceptive – or even just irritating – advertiser.

Dear sir or madam,

Thank you so kindly for your concern about my (choose one: vehicle, credit rating, pet, hemorrhoids, home safety, cremation plans, “other”). It is great to know there are strangers out there who love me!

Unfortunately, you seem to have confused me for someone who gives a hoot about my (choose one: vehicle, credit rating, pet, hemorrhoids, home safety, cremation plans, “other”). I can assure you I actually do not care about the aforementioned concern.

While I am grateful for your attention, the destruction of forests for stationary is a grave concern to me, equal, I’m certain, to your concern for my (choose one: vehicle, credit rating, pet, hemorrhoids, home safety, cremation plans, “other”). Ergo, I respectfully demand that you stop writing me.

Should you ignore my request, a thousand plagues will be sent upon your company by way of my very astute lawyer, Stan, and personal body guard, Greg, who love getting all up in everyone’s business.

Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to never hearing from you again. If you have any questions, you may call a toll-free number of your choosing.

Renée Schafer Horton is a regular op-ed contributor. Find her on Instagram

@rshorton08 or email her at