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Rewards programs – are you trading cost savings for your privacy?

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Rewards programs are a great way to save money, earn points and coupons.  But have you ever thought about how your shopping habits are being tracked and who is using your information?

Applications for loyalty, rewards, discount and membership cards require your name, address, email and other demographic information like gender, phone number, birthdate and income.  Many companies sell this information to data brokers who then sell it to other companies for marketing purposes.   According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, data brokers collect from a variety of sources including public records, in-store transactions and online browsing.

So how can you protect your information?  According to creditcards.com you can not only control the sharing of your information but you can also use it to your advantage.

  • Shop Discreetly

Information about nearly everything you buy with a credit or debit card is sold.  If you don’t want it tracked, don’t use plastic.

If you shop online, use a service that masks your credit card purchases such as Masked Card service.

If you’re truly worried about privacy, ditch your loyalty cards.

  • Control Your Browsing History

Be aware of the personal information you post on Facebook.  It can always be shared.

Free apps on your smartphone phone or device often come at the price of your privacy.

Disable third-party cookies.

Protect your IP address by installing a masking service such as Hotspot Shield.

  • Be Selective With Your Data

Switch back and forth between private and non-private web browsing.  This limits the data you share.

Only download apps from businesses you trust.

  • Limit The Information You Share

When you fill out applications, be aware of the information you provide.  Assume it can easily be bought and sold.  If you don’t want it shared, don’t provide it.

  • Opt Out

Not all companies offer this but check to see if you can opt out of having your information sold.  The World Privacy Forum compiled a list of data brokers and consumer reporting companies that allow you to opt out.

The Federal Trade Commission wants lawmakers to be more involved in the regulation of information made available to data brokers.  Until that works, it’s up to you to protect your privacy.

Photo by Joe Loong

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