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When in Doubt- make it up!

by Jan Hertsens

Would you give away a DNA sample to get a free Big Mac??

No? Maybe you are one of the millions of P2P users who give away their music preferences in exchange for a chance to score some bootlegged Britney Spears tracks?

Perhaps you give away your household income level and various other sensitive information for a 2MB free email account at Hotmail-like provider?

When you come to think of it, it is frightening to see how much information is given away on a daily bases in exchange for a few digital beads and a freebie. It seems that everybody has a price.

So now you're thinking "I want to keep my privacy, but I can never resist that freebie". The solution to this is an ancient technique that has been proven to work countless times-lying. This does require some preparation on your part.

First of all that a sheet of paper and start creating your own "alternative personality". Invent a name and choose a street address. A nice trick is to go to a "people search engine" or a phone company's list and pick a random first name, random last name and random address from different people. Choose a birth-date (to keep your "virtual age" consistent in the future). Pick a profession and a few hobbies. Estimate an income level based on your profession age.

(Tip: income level is used to target offers. Choose a low income if you are interested in freebies, a high one if you like exclusive offers or luxury items). Use this information to sign up to a free email account like Hotmail. This email account is ideal for signing up at other sites and will be the interaction point for your alternate identity.

Using this "kit" you will be several steps ahead of marketers. When you think you got enough "mileage" out of you alter ego, kill it off by tearing up the paper. There will just be an extra record in some marketer's database, with no links back to you.

Repeat as needed.

If this isn't to your liking or if it feels below your moral compass then you can use a shell service. A shell service allows you to receive mail in a controlled environment and allows you to block senders. You can check out MailBlocks which offers a spam free shell service. This service is great if you like to sign-up for newsletters and offers but get tired of marketers who won't unsubscribe your address or jam your e-mail box full of spam offers and junk every day. It also allows you to track e-mail messages using "trackers".

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