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Unforced Error: Why So Many Americans Part With Personal Information Just to Get an Online Discount

Consumers will give up a lot for an online discount - even their personal data

Why do Americans regularly give up personal data for a paltry financial return – especially in a digital age where the risk of consumer fraud is all too real?

It’s a fair question, as the problem is also all too real.

A new study by Atlas VPN, a network services and security company, shows that 70% of Americans would knowingly share personal data with a company online just to get a purchase discount.

Unfortunately, sharing personal data to grab 20% off on a pair of jeans or even a more expensive item like headphones or laptops opens the door to consumer data fraud – even if those consumers don’t seem to know it.

“While sharing personal data like age, career, location, previous purchases and hobbies isn't a good idea, many people don't see it as making them vulnerable,” said Baruch Labunski, chief executive officer at Rank Secure, a Toronto-based internet marketing firm. “They believe either the information is already out there, isn't that important, and are anxious to save money.”

Labunski believes this trend is becoming more prevalent in these harder economic times with high gas prices, a shortage of food on the shelves, and people looking for any kinds of savings.

“People, especially younger people, are already pre-conditioned to give up personal information,” he said. They’ve gotten used to sharing everything on social media and often participate in "quizzes" on platforms that are designed to give up their most personal information that leading to passwords on everything from social media to bank accounts.”

Try These Moves Instead of Sharing Personal Info

The good news? There is no shortage of opportunities to save cash without sharing personal information.

Grab a code. According to Andrea Woroch, a personal finance expert at AndreaWoroch.com, deal aggregators like www.CouponFollow.com post coupons for thousands of retailers where you can grab the discount code for savings online without having to share any personal data.

“You can even earn cash back on your online purchase by shopping through a cashback portal like www.CouponCabin.com to double up on savings without sharing any personal info,” Woroch said

Automate the coupon process. Download a coupon plug into your browser like www.Cently.com. “This will automatically apply coupons for money off and free shipping to your online orders without requesting any personal data,” Woroch added.

Unsubscribe from information gathering sites. Consumers can start unsubscribing, as well.

“If you feel like you shared too much personal data and are being bombarded by newsletters and text messages from retailers, unsubscribe and delete your info,” Woroch said. “Use Edison Mail for help as they offer a one-touch unsubscribe feature and can even identify those messages and accounts that you may want to get rid of in your inbox.”

Add a harmless email address. One last tip – create a marketing-only email address to sign up for email discounts.

“This allows consumers to keep their personal info separate from this special email address and can provide them the anonymity they seek,” said Greg Zakowicz, senior e-commerce expert at Omnisend in Durham, N.C. “But more importantly, just remember, nothing in life is free.”