Pick a Card

You know those little cards you fill out and send in to get free stuff? “Tell us how you like our product and we’ll send you a free tee shirt/CD/sun catcher!”

It’s fun. The cards only take about a minute to fill out, and a few weeks after you send them off, a little gift shows up in your mailbox from that company, to thank you for helping them work out their marketing plans. I’ve gotten a couple of tee shirts and CDs this way myself–and am currently awaiting my first sun catcher.

All I want to say is… if you’re going to fill out the card, go ahead and send the thing off–preferably in a sealed envelope. Don’t leave it lying around the house, or you’ll miss out on your chance for free goodies. And don’t use it as a bookmark. Why?

A used book was recently purchased on Amazon.com. As the new owner flipped through the pages, he came across one of these cards–revealing a complete stranger’s personal information. He read the name, address, phone number, and age of the young woman who had owned the book previously. He also learned her favorites sports activities and preferred places to eat, drink, and go dancing with her friends.

Fortunately, this man was neither a stalker nor of some evil, criminal bent. He did not seek out the woman and terrorize her for her mistake simply because he knew where she lived. Unfortunately, he didn’t just tear the card up and throw it away, either. Instead, he photographed it and–with all her information clearly visible–posted it on the internet.

Now, millions of ‘net surfers around the world know her name, where she lives, and where she likes to go running and hang out with friends. The guy who posted her information didn’t exercise the best judgment in doing so. (In fact, I won’t argue with a friend of mine who called his actions careless and even downright stupid.) She’s going to have to do a lot of work to restore her privacy.

But you don’t. Your private business is nobody’s but yours.┬áIt’s fine to drop a card in the mail for a free sun-catcher. Just don’t let your personal stuff get exposed–you will get burned.

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