Q&A Tuesday: Is it safe to give out your name and mailing address when signing up for freebies?

I have found many great freebies thanks to your site but was wondering, isn’t it considered risky to provide your name and home address to different companies? Doesn’t this run the risk of identify thieves? Do you have suggestions of how a person can protect themselves while still signing up for freebies? -Chrissy

I do my best to thoroughly check out all the deals posted here to verify that they are legitimate, so I personally don’t think there’s a risk in giving out your name and mailing address when signing up for freebies on this site.

Unless you’ve gone to great lengths to make your contact information unavailable for specific circumstances where you need to have that information private, I don’t think there’s usually a risk involved. In fact, in most people’s cases, you can pretty easily find someone’s home address in the phone book or through search engines online.

In same cases, you will receive more junk mail (though I’ve not seen much of an increase at all and I sign up for a lot of freebies!) but I’ve not heard of anyone having any other ill effects as a result of signing up for freebies.

That said, NEVER give out your Social Security Number or other information which is not available to the general public when signing up for anything unless you are 100% sure it is legitimate and a secure website. Also, only give the bare minimum information necessary. Most sign-up forms have extra spots which aren’t required. Just leave ‘em blank! You can also use your initials or middle name, if you feel more comfortable with that.

What about the rest of you all? Do you think it’s safe to provide your name and mailing address to companies when signing up for freebies? Why or why not?

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Comments

  1. Eileen O. says

    I love signing up for freebies! I enter an old email that I check every 6 months just because you do get a LOT of SPAM-mail.

  2. Amber says

    I have a seperate email just for sign-ups, give-aways, promotions, coupons, etc…. That way I can check it when I want something but not have to sort through it for the important stuff.

  3. says

    I have seen a definite increase in junk (snail) mail since I started signing up for freebies a few months ago. I’ve decided that the waste produced by the freebies isn’t worth it.

  4. Diane says

    I sign up for freebies all the time. The only things I bother faking are my email address (I give out my spam one if they require it) and phone number.

  5. Karin says

    I don’t give my real bday or phone# unless its a prize you can win and then I still don’t give out my bday.
    They are just verifying that you are over 18 as far as I know. Honestly my junk email hasn’t increased. If something shows up I don’t like I just mark it as spam. Problem solved :) I have signed up for a lot of freebies and love going to the mailbox and finding them there! :) I use the small trial sizes for camping and traveling.

  6. Laura says

    I give out my info, but only because its on this site. Thanks Karin for giving me a great point on the bday thing. I guess I don’t have to give my real date. I never thought about it. I’m obviously over 18.. :) so thats all that counts. I do give my aol mail, which I only check once a week or so. My personal, more private email I reserve for the things I don’t mind receiving. I think its pretty safe, aslong as you don’t give very important information. (like social , or maybe bday, or mothers maiden name. ) I think name, and address is okay to give out. As far as your email, you may give an email you set up only for freebies. It all dpends what feels comfortable for you.

  7. Nina says

    I have seen some increase in spam, and junk mail as well, but love the freebies, so it’s a minor issues as far as I’m concerned, and Karin – giving a false bday sounds like a good idea

  8. says

    Those concerned about giving out their home address might consider a USPS post office box or a box taken with a local mailbox company (Mailboxes Etc, that sort of thing), if their budget allows. This can also cut down on mail theft if you live in an area that has such problems, like my parents have had to deal with in their suburban neighborhood. It’s a tactic I’ve had to use myself when I was a police officer’s wife – the less my home address was out, the better.

  9. blue-eyes says

    I don’t give out my real email, phone number, or birthdate. I haven’t noticed an increase in junk mail to my home, so i’m not worried out the environmental aspect of it. I’ve been doing freebies for about 5 years now.

  10. ann says

    You do receive a LOT of junk emails once you start signing up for freebies. So, I give an email id only meant for junk, fake my b’day, fake my phone number, etc.
    Also, in my opinion, most of the freebies generate a lot of waste. Especially, those fragrance samples on a piece of paper. However, i do order the 2oz bodywash bottles, walmart and p&g samples once in a while. They come handy. Overall, I prefer choosing my samples wisely. :)

  11. Amy says

    I don’t see any security risk posed in giving your name and address. This is considered public record, and can easily be found on the internet. Google maps even shows a picture of your house from the road. So, if someone wanted your address information, they could really go about obtaining it without having to solicit it from you.

  12. Beth says

    You don’t have to actively be signing up for stuff to be getting junk mail! I have found my health insurance co. and student loan co. both guilty of selling out my information. Also, some utilities co. that you pay on-line will sell your info as well. So, the way I see it your info is going to circulate no matter what so might as well get a freebies out of it!

  13. Joanna says

    Like many of you, I have a separate email acct that I send all my freebies, coupons, promotions, etc. to. I also use the correct month and year, but change the day of my birthday everytime I use it to sign up for something. I don’t mind getting the extra emails b/c sometimes you can find soem good deals. But I def don’t want all those extra emails jamming up my ‘real’ email address.

  14. Jay says

    Freebies aren’t given by companies out of pure generosity. Partly they want you to try their product and then buy it, but partly they want your info in their database as the price you “pay” for the freebie. You get something, and so do they. So if I give them a false phone number, etc., then I’ve cheated. I tend to only sign up with companies to whom I’m willing to provide correct information and pass on the ones that ask me to fill out a full page of info for a 50 cent coupon. I do have an email account just for “corporate” mail, but it is a real account that I check regularly (there might be good deals!). Just something to think about.

  15. jennifer says

    *If an email address is not requited, I don’t provide one.
    *If they do request one, I use one that I never check (old account)
    *I often put in a false birthday
    *For the phone number, I use the one we just disconnected a month ago. It hasn’t been reassigned yet.

    I haven’t noticed an increase in junk mail. However, I have written to the place (can’t remember name) to have my name/address removed. Reminds me I should do it again since we have moved!

    A lot of freebies posted I pass on, unless it’s something I know I or someone in my family could use.

  16. Tammy says

    I’m always afraid that part of the verification process to receive a sample will be clicking an email link and verifying your birthday, so if I use a totally random bday, I won’t remember it.

    What I do is use the month and date of my bday and the year of someone else close to me. That way I won’t forget, but it isn’t my actual birthday.

  17. says

    I do know certain companies can optain your social security number if they have your name, address, and birthday. So I use a fake birthday and I usually don’t use my real first name. I have always hoped this would help.

  18. Deb says

    I only started the couponing/freebie thing about a year ago. I have a separate yahoo account for junk mail. I haven’t seen any increase in paper junk mail except for magazine renewal notices for magazines that I got for free or cheap. Ironically, I get the most junk mail for the stuff I do for my parents since they don’t have internet. I am on the geriatric hit list I guess.

    I try to watch carefully and only give the information that is absolutely required and uncheck the boxes at the bottom to opt out of more junk. The restaurant eclub type things require a birthday, but for free ice cream or a meal, that is worth it and they will verify it sometimes.

    Overall, I have been very pleased with the samples I have received, the coconut oil was outstanding and well worth my time, I just skip the ones that I wouldn’t use or don’t need.

  19. says

    I think it would be helpful to have some ideas on how to research whether a deal is legit or scammy. Is there a forum to search, or how do you go about it?

    • says

      I usually check WHOIS if the website seems sketchy. You can usually tell if it was very recently created or if it’s owned by someone in a foreign country that it’s just a spam-harvesting site.

  20. says

    I haven’t noticed an increase in snail mail by signing up for freebies. I do get a TON of junk email, though. I have a separate email account just for freebies and such. I skip all field’s that aren’t required and don’t use my real b-day. I also use a different password than I would normally when I’m required to register or create an account.

    Be smart about the info you are giving out. If you’re being asked for more than just basic info, skip the offer.

  21. Sarah says

    I haven’t read all the comments, but in agreement with probably most people, I have a separate email address I check once per week and think since one can search to find my name and address, I’m not giving out anything that isn’t already public.

  22. Candy says

    This is a little bit off the subject but I was recently trying to come up with a better budget so I googled excel budget template and mint.com came up. I clicked on it and it ask for my bank plus my username and password to login to my online account, yikes! I backed right out of that! Although, I have heard of mint.com and thought it was a legit site…..anyone used it or have any insight?

  23. Elizabeth says

    I use my dog’s name for the mailing address … we call him Bailey Bear so that becomes the first & last name fields. In addition to keeping my name private, it gives me a good laugh when I see the samples come in addressed to him. I also use his b-day (mo & day) and my year so I pass the over 18 test. This also helps to watch for junk snail-mail as it has my dog’s name on it. I also use his email address (my spam email with his name associated with it) to avoid clogging my personal email with junk. Sometimes, when I’m feeling more spunky, I add the name of the company to his name so for example: Baileykotex Bear … this way I know all future junk mail was because Kotex sold their customer list. (You have to keep in mind these lists and sample requests are automated so it’s a system processing it, not a person) However, I haven’t noticed an increase in snail junk mail, only e-mail.

  24. says

    I admit to being a bit paranoid, when it comes to sharing my private info online. But I also love the freebies. So to accommodate my conflicting impulses, I like a couple guidelines:

    1. freebie email (use a dedicated email for freebies – to preserve my main email from spam)
    2. ok to share abbreviated name and address and gender
    3. if they ask for birthdate or SSN(!) or anything that might not otherwise be publicly available, I’ll avoid the freebie (this is hard when the freebie is really good!)
    4. I try to remember to limit my sign-ups to items/companies I really know, products I love and will use. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s worth the effort of giving up my info.

  25. Dana from Alabama says

    I always use just my first initial for my first name, never the whole name. I figure if they mail me junk from the samples, I’ll know right away. Before I got married, I had a very unusual last name, so I would only use the first syllable. Now that I have a more common last name, I use that. I always say my birthday is Jan. 1 of the year I was born (easy to remember as fake birthdays go). As others have mentioned, I also have a dedicated junk email account.

  26. Lynne says

    My tip: Use “The Resident” as your name (first = The; last = Resident). I still receive my samples to my mailbox. :-) When I do find it necessary to give my name, I give a slight misspelling. (Helps to separate the legitimate mail from the junk mail.)

  27. Traci says

    I am not worried about giving out my mailing address – I actually want to be on the mailing list of many companies I get freebies from. And while I am getting more mail – most of the “junk” mail isn’t just miscellaneous advertising, but coupons. I probably get 5-10 postcards or booklets with coupons every week – if it’s not a product I’ll use, I put them on the break table at work to share.

  28. Kris says

    Like Dana, I usually use just my first initial instead of my real name. Makes junk easy to spot. Some sites don’t allow that, so I use a shortened form of my first name that I only use online, so again I know that it’s a freebie or just junk.

  29. Stephanie says

    I didn’t realize how paranoid I probably sound till I started thinking, “I do that, and that and that … oh, this too.” =) I use a fake name, birthday, junk email, and fake phone number.

    My junk email also has a pseudonym (fake name) on it. That is the name I use when I sign up for junk mail and when I list something on Craigslist. Not everyone would take just an initial, so I used my first initial and made up a name that rhymned with the first part of my last name (which is what I had been giving out). My friend laughed at me the first time she and I went to pick up something from Craigslist and the person called me by my fake name. =)

    Then I changed my birthday so that it makes me about a month younger. Since I’m definantly over 18 it doesn’t really matter. I always use the same fake name and birthday and junk email to register for things. It also allows me to see if any of the junk (snail) mail is from signing up for freebies or from something else. Even for the birthday freebies I use my fake birthday. It doesn’t matter to me that I get the stuff a month later. Since we have no land line we aren’t listed in the phone book. Even though it is all probably safe, I feel better at least making it a little harder for people to use my information in the wrong way.

  30. Rae says

    These are things I do:
    -I always get close on my birthday but “mistakenly” miss the year by 1 up or down
    -I have a separate email for freebies. I would not give a fake one as several of the good ones require confirmation but I also wouldn’t want my personal email flooded
    -I have a free evoice number (I don’t think you can sign up for free account anymore) that I give if a phone number is required. It goes straight to a generic voicemail and they leave a message. If it was something I needed to verify, I can just call them back.
    -Always check for check boxes and read them. If they say can they share the info, I uncheck/check (depending on the wording). If they ask if I want to receive future mailings, I choose depending on whether I love the brand or not (if I do, they often send coupons I will use).

  31. Robin says

    I have been in banking for 14 years. I think the freebie sign ups are ok as long as you don’t provide your social security #. Some ways to protect your identity is to write very few checks, pay your bills online through your BANKs website, opt out of pre-approvals with creditors, go paperless on all of your bank statements/bilss, and check your credit report annually. Most states allow for one free report per year.

  32. says

    I also use a shortened form of my name or a nickname… :) I love when I receive mail or an email that says, “Kassie” instead of “Kassandra”… LOL I will have to be honest and say that I used to work at a physician’s office. They had a pretty laid back policy on internet use. They only asked us not to visit the very popular “community” sites or sites that were not workplace appropriate. I visited a few websites and we caught a virus. Our tech guy came in and said there was a virus, spyware and adware from a source that was only identified as “coupon printer”… Needless to say, I ruined our company policy of open computer use on workplace appropriate sites… they then changed the rule to no personal use what-so-ever. Yep, I was THAT employee. My suggestion would be to only download coupon printers from HIGHLY reputable sources and don’t visit sites with pop-ups or sites that have ads that are placed in conspicuous areas. I also suggest that a person invest in reputable anti-virus software… Regardless of whether you are surfing for printable coupons, filling out forms for freebies… or searching websites for craft ideas, there is always the threat of someone trying to sabotage your computer and retrieve your information. Although I don’t think people should be paranoid, I do think being well-informed and well-prepared are important. If you take appropriate precautions and choose who to give your personal information to wisely, I think coupons, freebies and other internet resources can be very beneficial and rewarding!

  33. Allison says

    I don’t get any junk mail by snail mail, and I use my “freebies and deals” email address anyhow. Obviously if something is asking for your SS#, why would they need that for a free sample? No problems here.

  34. maggie says

    you can get email aliases at http://www.sneakemail.com. you can provide each company that you deal with a unique alias that sneakemail will forward to your real email. i’ve been using this site for at least 9 years. it’s great. and you will know if someone sells your email. if you need to get rid of one, it’s easy. they used to be free but now they charge $2 a month.

  35. Jenna says

    I think it is safe as long as you use an alias for this type of promotion.

    The number one thing to protect these days is your social security number and that of your children.

    Identity theft is on the rise and the young childs social security number is a gold mine. Protect it at all cost it is not needed by anyone but government agencies.

    Needed for id so the child can travel
    Needed to set up banking for a childs bank account
    Not needed for a doctors appointment unless you have care provided by the state and even then do not announce it loudly in the office if asked provide it by writing it down and handing it to a nurse.
    Protetct the social security number and the government id at all cost!