We all want to save money. Unfortunately, many of the ways to save money available today require that you sacrifice at least a little bit of your privacy. Retailers, websites, and manufacturers want your personal information and information about your purchasing habits. Some of them want information about your health or family life. Your information is currency for these corporations. They can sell it to others and make money, and they can use it to market more products to you. They want the information. It’s up to you to decide whether or not the deal you’re getting is worth giving up a little bit of your privacy. Here are some ways that corporations are getting your information under the guise of giving you a deal.
Liking Companies on Social Media
When you like a company on social media, or become a follower to get access to a coupon code, deal, or printable coupon, you’re giving the retailer access to the information from your profile on that site and potentially exposing your friends, too. They may get your email, see where you live, what you buy, who your friends are and what they buy and use, where you go and what you wear. If your profile is open and you post about every detail of your life, there’s nothing stopping the retailer from knowing that, too.
Grocery and other retail loyalty cards give the stores access to your purchasing history. They also know how you tend to pay and, since you had to fill out a form to get the card, they know your address, email, phone number, and maybe your birthdate.
Using GPT Sites
If you do surveys and other offers at GPT sites, you’re likely providing information including your address, birthday, age, ages of other family members, and your likes and dislikes. While GPT sites can be money-makers, they are also among the worst about selling your information to anyone and everyone.
Personal Information Required
Be aware that any deal that requires you to give out personal information to get is relinquishing some of your privacy. Any time you have to provide an email address, physical address, or phone number to get a coupon or a deal, you’re giving up your information in exchange.
Black Boxes in Your Car
Many auto insurers now are willing to cut you a price break if you install a “black box” in your car that tracks how far you drive, where you drive, how fast you drive, and when you drive. This enables the insurer to see if you’re a speed demon, if you have a long commute, or if you park in a high crime area. The information may give you lower rates, but it can also lead to the cancellation of your policy if the insurers don’t like what they see.
Health Insurance Questionnaires
Many health insurers now offer discounts if you are willing to submit to special screenings, or if you complete their health assessments or wellness programs. In addition to the information they get from your doctor, this extra information enables them to determine your health level and risk factors. As with the black box in your car, your health insurer may give you lower rates, but they may also use the information to justify dropping you.
Sweepstakes / Surveys
Those sweepstakes and surveys you get at the bottom of your receipt often require at least an email address to enter. A sweepstakes on a retailers’ site may require you to create a full account including your name and address to enter. Those sweepstakes you see at trade shows may give you a small freebie for entering, but what they’re really after is your information.
Not only do you sacrifice privacy by using many of these money saving tactics, you end up wasting more time, as well. Every newsletter, retailer, or coupon site that you give your email address to will send mail that clutters up your inbox. They, in turn, will probably sell your information to someone else who will send you even more email. If you give out your physical address, you’ll get snail mail. If you give out a phone number, expect telemarketing calls and texts (and if you’re on a cell plan where you have to pay per call or message, you’ll incur charges for this “spam,” as well).
All of this requires time to deal with. Sure, you can give a spam email address or have the calls go to a phone you never turn on, but at some point you have to clean out that inbox or erase the voice mail and text messages. Cleaning out the digital clutter takes time.
Some people argue that the answer to the privacy versus saving money issue is to give out bogus information. This only works to a point. If you’re signing up to receive coupons, you’re going to have to give them a valid email address so they can send the coupon to you. The same holds true with deals that will be mailed to you. Some retailers and marketers have caught on to the bogus information tactic and now validate the email or phone number you give them by making you answer an email or respond to a text before they will send you the deal. Even if you have a junk email account, you still have to wade through the crap to find the thing you wanted.
This isn’t to say that it’s never worth it to give up your information in order to get deals. Sometimes it is. You just need to make sure that you’re dealing with a reputable company, that your information won’t be abused, and that you can live with the resulting spam, snail mail, and phone calls. Or, that you can live with the larger invasions of privacy that come from agreeing to be monitored by an insurer.
Take the time to read the privacy policies on the sites you’re using and read the terms and conditions on things like loyalty cards and insurance forms. Understand what information you’re giving away and how they will use it. Make sure it won’t be used against you at some later date. If you can live with their policies and the amount of money you’ll save is worth it to you, then sign up. Otherwise, let the deals go and keep your information to yourself.
(Photo courtesy of opensourceway)