Privacy: Is it smart to hand over your email and number for discounts?

Dec 18, 2023, 4:05 AM

person handing another person a phone....

(Pexels File Photo)

(Pexels File Photo)

It’s a savvy shopper’s favorite time of year: Discounts and deals as far as the eye can see.

You’re probably like me — I don’t like paying full price. But is handing over your email address, phone number or even more worth it for a coupon code? Like most things tech, it depends.

Only two weeks left to win a new iPhone 15 (valued at $799). Enter to win it now!

What’s in the fine print?

Did you read it when you signed up? Yeah, I thought so. It’s never too late to go back and check the terms and conditions. Here are some recent stats from Atlas VPN, which reviewed some of the most popular shopping apps.

  • 58% of the apps they reviewed shared names, home addresses, email IDs and phone numbers with third parties. (That’s code for “anyone willing to pay enough.”)
  • 25% shared device IDs or other unique identifiers for smartphones and tablets.
  • Roughly a third disclosed financial data, including purchase history and payment details.
  • 28% shared location data with “external sources,” whatever that means.

Things aren’t much better if you’re signing up for an email list, handing over your number for marketing texts or becoming a “member,” even when it’s free. Speaking of …

What about store loyalty cards?

Getting talked into signing up for a store loyalty program is easy. In exchange for a little info, you can score great deals on groceries, household items, you name it. But just like the other methods we discussed, you’re giving away a lot more than you think.

Each swipe of your loyalty card, phone number or email address tells the store everything you bought, when you bought it, in what quantity, and at what price, along with your payment details. Pair that with downloading your store’s app; they also know where you are.

“Who cares if my store knows what brands I like?” Fair enough, but the tracking goes far beyond that. Rewards cards store data, including your name, address, phone number, and credit and debit cards. Thieves can steal this information and create a fake identity for a crime spree.

The good news is there are simple ways around handing this over.

  • Use your office phone number as your loyalty number. If they need an email address, I give them a disposable one. (More on that below.)
  • Look for stores that don’t require loyalty programs for discounts, like Trader Joe’s and Walmart.
  • Don’t forget physical coupons. Most grocery stores have a coupon section on their website where you can print, snip and hand in.
  • Whatever you do, never give them your Social Security number or driver’s license number.
  • Ask for the discount anyway. Cashiers usually have a code to charge the digital price without you needing to have a loyalty app or code.
  • If all else fails, smile and ask the person behind you, “Hey, mind if I use your card?” Be polite, and I bet you’ll get a yes.

And hey, if all else fails, consider whether saving $1.25 is worth it for your data. I’m willing to bet it’s not.

Do it the privacy-first way

Remember how often sites used to ask you to answer a question to prove your identity? Thieves caught on, and now your bank has safer ways of ensuring it’s you than providing your mother’s maiden name.

My advice back then is the same now: Fudge it. (If you ever are asked to answer a personal question when creating a log-in, make something up — as long as you can remember what you said later.)

For coupons, loyalty cards and all the rest, that means setting yourself up with a burner email address and phone number. I encourage you to keep your real contact info closer to the vest.

Burner email addresses are disposable and can be used in place of your primary.

  • Temp Mail provides a temporary, anonymous and disposable email address. You don’t need to register for the free version. Remember that the service doesn’t automatically delete your temporary email address (that’s up to you), and you can’t send emails. Emails are stored for about two hours before they’re automatically deleted.
  • 10MinuteMail is another popular option you can also use to send emails. As the name suggests, the email and address are deleted in 10 minutes. If you receive an important message you don’t want to lose, you can forward it to another email address. There’s no need to provide personal information to get started, which is a nice bonus.

If you’re an Apple iCloud+ subscriber, you get access to one of my favorite Apple features: Hide My Email. It creates unique, random email addresses that forward to your inbox. You can create as many addresses as you want and reply to messages.

  • Go to Settings and tap your Apple ID.
  • Go to iCloud > Hide My Email > Create New Address.
  • Follow the onscreen instructions, and you’ll get a new email address you can manage from iCloud settings.

Here are options for getting a burner phone number, if you need one.

Keep your tech-know going

My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.

PODCAST PICK: House cleaning robots, bank robocall scams & Google’s Santa fail

Plus, I’m hooking Jessica from Illinois up with tips for cheap last-minute flights. Doing some holiday shopping? Here are the top tech gifts this season. Free tool to block online trolls and unique remote jobs. Also, try these Siri and Google Assistant voice commands for emergencies!

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

Sound like a tech pro, even if you’re not! Award-winning popular host Kim Komando is your secret weapon. Listen on 425+ radio stations or get the podcast. And join over 400,000 people who get her free 5-minute daily email newsletter.

Kim Komando

Person upset with phone....

Kim Komando

Here are the signs that you need a new phone, like, now

As time goes on, the battery level on your phone will drop. Here are the signs you should know that hint you need a new phone ASAP.

22 hours ago

Woman sitting at her computer....

Kim Komando

Here are tech life upgrades smarter than the stuff on TikTok

This story delves into the pitfalls of relying solely on online guidance, particularly in the realm of finance and technology, where clickbait and hype often overshadow genuine insight.

7 days ago

Anything connected is a hacker target, and you better believe that includes all the Internet gadget...

Kim Komando

Tech security to-do: Lock down your smart stuff before it can be hacked

Anything connected is a hacker target, and you better believe that includes all the Internet of Things gadgets in your home.

8 days ago

Family siting on couch....

Kim Komando

Unlocking online safety: The secret text code every family needs

For those who don't have one yet, here's a guide to a secret text code that every family needs to be using these days.

14 days ago

Woman holds phone...

Kim Komando

Unscrupulous scammers targeting children and adolescents

Scammers pose as attractive individuals, coerce teens into sharing sensitive content, and demand payouts. Read to learn more.

15 days ago

collection of streaming services....

Kim Komando

7 ways to stop paying so much on streaming every dang month

Maximize your streaming, minimize your costs! Read more about how to cut add-ons, watch what you love and embrace ads for savings.

22 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.


Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.


Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Privacy: Is it smart to hand over your email and number for discounts?