Everyone loves freebies, and while it's easy and fun to just click the auto-fill button and request a bunch of them, please remember that you are sending out your personal information to an unknown source. With the rate of identity theft on the steady rise, it doesn't hurt to be a bit more careful. When I request freebies, I go by the following guidelines to keep myself and my family safe:
- Follow your instinct: first and foremost, if you feel that something is out of place, stop and don't go any further, no matter how great the freebie is, or how "professional" the site looks. Trust your gut - no freebie is worth endangering your information. And after all, there will be another one just like it next week.
- Do not use your real name: I use my dog's name and a common mis-spelling of our last name when requesting freebies. The house we moved to is a complex of 4 houses, so a lot of times mail gets delivered even without the apartment number because the mailman recognized our name. By using a common mis-spelling that sounds the same, I increase the chance of actually getting the freebie. Before we moved and we were in a stand-alone house, I used a fake last name.
- Create & use a "spam" email: Have at least 2 email accounts - one for "official" business, and one for requesting freebies. My official email is my ful name, so by giving out that email I pretty much give out my name. Also, the spam protection on it is pretty high, so a lot of the confirmation emails for some freebies do not get through. My spam email is just a nickname, and has low spam protection to allow the confirmation emails through. I also use the "spam" email for things like craigslist and freecycle. That way, if I get behind on reading email, I can just empty out the entire inbox of my spam email without worrying about missing important things like statements.
- Never give out your phone number: Giving out a phone number has never been vital to receiving a freebie, unlike your address. And some forms are getting smart and refusing a random sequence of numbers. Instead, give a real area code (doesn't necessarily have to be the one you live in), 555, and then a random 4 digit number.
- Speling is not important: Like I mentioned above, I use a common mis-spelling of our last name. If you're in the experimenting mood, you can also use a mis-spelling of your street address. For example, if you live on Mississippi Rd., you can omit one "S" or one "P", and chances are your mail will still get to you. I have not tested this out to an extent, but we used to live on a Key Ct., and we would get mail addressed to Kei Ct. It really all depends on your postman.