When Free Isn't Free

Be careful what you sign up for. You may be selling your email address short. Keep in mind, those supposed "free" accounts may not really be free. Online users shouldn't necessarily believe it when a site promises not to share your email address with anyone. I rarely sign up for new "free" accounts, as I know that within 24-48 hours my spam folder will suddenly be filled to overflowing with every kind of annoying piece of spam ever created. Among those messages will be a layer of phishing scams. For the most part my filters catch the garbage and put it in the electronic round file where it belongs. Every once in a while, something weird gets through.

Another thing to remember is, once you're on those free-site spammer lists, it's nearly impossible to get your email removed from them. Don't kid yourself. That "unsubscribe" link at the bottom is just your way of confirming for the sender that their spam has reached an active account. It's best just to right click on the message and add the sender's address to the "blocked" list in your email software. Better yet, add their whole domain if it's not one where you get mail from other people that you DO want to hear from.

And be nice to your online friends. Don't give out their email addresses by clicking on those "email this to a friend" links on pages. It's just another collection tool for sites. You can right click on the page link in the address bar, copy it, and paste the link into a private email you can send to your friend. That way the only list they are on is yours.

Save yourself a lot of headaches. Free online accounts ALWAYS want something from you in return -- at the very least, they want your valuable email address. Consider very carefully what you sign up for, because you may be signing up for more than you think. There are reputable sites out there who follow their own privacy policy and don't share, but be sure to read the fine print. If it says that signing up for a "free" account means they get to share your email address with "affiliates" you may decide you don't want to open your email inbox to that type of traffic.

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