One of my readers wrote to me the other day mentioning how she had noticed a significant increase in her spam emails, as well as telemarketing calls since she started signing up for freebies and surveys. This led me to the realization that I haven't addressed this serious issue on my blog, and I wanted to make sure that everyone is fully informed on this important matter.
If you've been on the Internet for a while, it's easy to fall under the mistaken impression that your personal information is secure. Companies generally post their privacy policies on their websites,and will tell you that your information is safe; however, in reality this is still not always the case.
For this very reason, it's important to be very selective about what personal information you divulge when signing up for freebies and surveys. I would recommend having a "junk" email address that is used only for this purpose. Signing up for a free Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo! email address takes just a few minutes and will protect your personal email address from being bombarded with spam.
Also, I never give out my real home phone number unless I am absolutely sure that it is necessary, which in most cases it is not. Furthermore, if you haven't registered for the National Do Not Call Registry, now would be an excellent time to do so! In case you didn't know, you can register cell phones as well.
Some people go so far as to open a PO Box at the Post Office just for freebie purposes, but I haven't gone to that length yet. Other areas to be selective about are birth date fields, as well as giving out information about your children. And please, never ever give out your Social Security Number on a form or by email.
As always, use your best judgment. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. I try to only post legitimate freebies that are not trying to harvest your information, but you just never know what even large corporations are doing with it. And we've all heard the horror stories about databases being hacked.
You're your own best defense against misuse of your personal information, so empower yourself with these tips!