"May I have your zip code?" leads to more junk mail
Posted at: 03/20/2013 7:06 AM
| Updated at: 03/20/2013 5:32 PM
By: Ray Levato | WHEC.com
Is it safe to give out your zip code? We're asked to do it all the time. But here's something you may not know.
Privacy experts say you might run into trouble if you share your zip code with your credit card to make a purchase. But people do it every day, so we wanted to know what your rights are in these situations.
When you pull out that plastic to make a purchase and the store clerk asks, “May I have your zip code?” Privacy advocates want you to say, “No, you may not.” News10NBC found out at Eastview Mall that many shoppers did not suspect that giving out their zip code could lead to getting more junk mail or worse, identify theft.
News10NBC caught up with two college students who did a bunch of shopping Wednesday and they said they were asked for their zip codes and even phone numbers.
Kait Talbot, shopper, said, “They usually ask for e-mail, zip code. It is kind of scary in a way.”
Kaitlyn Wegman, shopper, said, “Phone number? I don't know. E-mail, okay because they send coupons and stuff. But the phone number, I might double think that.”
On the “Today Show” Wednesday morning, identity theft expert Jim Stickley explained how retailers connect the dots using your zip code to find out where you live and more.
Jim Stickley, identity theft expert, said, “What they'll do, they take you name off your credit card and then take your zip code, and with that little information they can go to databases and pull your full address, sometimes even your phone number and e-mail address, and suddenly you're on their mailing list.”
Which could lead to more junk mail in your mailbox. However, the National Retail Federation says tracking zip codes is how they do business. "Asking for generic information helps retailers tailor merchandise, customize advertising and marketing promotions, deals and coupons. Thus, retailers may ask for generic information such as zip codes in order to better know their customers."
To which the expert says.
Stickey said, “The reality is, if you didn't sign up to be put on a mailing list, you shouldn't be put on a mailing list. So it's really deceptive.”
This woman is visiting from Arkansas and was shopping at Eastview Mall with a friend and she gave us her zip code. And doesn't have a problem with giving it out to stores when they ask.
Betty Tolefree said, “That's like giving out your e-mail address or something like that. I'm not concerned about that so I just give it to them.
Of course, you have to include your address for online orders to make sure your purchase gets to you. But court cases in two states, California and Massachusetts, have lead to rulings that ban merchants from asking for your zip code. However, it doesn't apply at the gas pumps. There, it's considered an anti-fraud tool because you're not face-to-face with a store clerk who can check the signature on the back of your credit card.
The attorney general's office says there currently is no law on the books in New York State that prevents merchants from asking for your zip code to complete a transaction and because there is no law, the Attorney General's interpretation is it's up to the business.