Here’s the Info in Your Zip Code

zipcodeThis morning on FOX 35, I’m talking about your ZIP Code.   Ahhh, yes…  The ZIP Code.  The 5 digit number needed to get the mail to your home every day.  There are some zip codes more popular than others, there have been TV shows named after a zip code.  When I worked national weather on TV, my outcue was “here’s the weather in your ZIP Code…”  and the local affiliates would do their local weather.  But what gives on this geographical representation that makes it so important to everyone? Well, it actually says a lot about you.

If you’re ever at a retailer and they ask “Can I have your ZIP Code?” DO NOT give it to them.  Why? Mainly, its because your ZIP Code is the last piece of the puzzle for companies to sell you stuff.  What seems harmless actually gives big business an opportunity to sell who you are.  “Dynamic, personalized marketing.”  They know what you buy and they know what to send to you.

So, who cares.  I’ll get some more junk mail.  Right? Yes, you’re right.  But you’re info now becomes a commodity for those businesses to sell to others. Other companies that might not be so scrupulous.    Its become ‘Big Data’ and companies don’t need your whole address to find you.  Once you’ve swiped your credit or debit card, they have your address and possibly your phone number.  What they don’t have is your ZIP Code.  They verbally ask you for it.  Once you’ve given it to them, its cart blanche on them building a profile on you.  A profile of what you’ve bought, when you’ve bought it and so on.  What’s even more troubling is that some of these companies have accuracy rates close to 100%.

Generally, you don’t have to give them your info.  It’s illegal to require personal information to run your credit card in CA, DE, GA, KS, MA, MD, MN, NV, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, TX, WI, and DC.  If you live in one of these states and you don’t want to give them your info.  Don’t! According to Mastercard, a merchant cannot refuse to complete a transaction if the card holder doesn’t want to give out that information.

Most stores know what to do if a customer refuses.  They more than likely have already dealt with it.  You might want to ask them if its going to be used for marketing purposes.

If you’re ready to purge any and all junk mail, check out The Federal Trade Commission’s website. If you want to get rid of unsolicited mail, email and phone calls.  Go to the FTC’s opt-out page (for some reason, they give you a choice of opting out for 5 years or permanently.  I think most would prefer the latter!)

Don’t worry about typing in your ZIP Code at the gas pump.  You’re ok there.  They need that information to make sure it matches with the credit card you used.  Its a way to deter fraudulent charges.

Here’s my segment in FOX 35:

FOX 35 News Orlando

Rock forth, Mitch

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3 Comments on Here’s the Info in Your Zip Code

  1. Well, that’s disturbing. I’ve always wondered why they asked for the zip code in stores. How come they can get everything else and not already have that? Or, by giving it to them, is it a way of their being able to say we gave the information to market to us willingly?

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