|Published:||May 09, 2013 4:45 PM EDT|
|Updated:||May 09, 2013 6:42 PM EDT|
FORT MYERS, Fla. - A Call for Action investigation uncovers the cost you may really be paying for downloading "free" apps.
When you sign up for deals online or for an app, you're usually asked for your email address and your name. What companies do with the information you give them can all be found in the small print; but we didn't find many people who were reading that fine print.
Private investigators and computer experts we talked to say, in the wrong hands, information like your email address and name can lead the bad guys down a path to stealing your identity.
"Your personal identity is a puzzle," explained John Benkert, a computer expert and CEO of CPR Tools, Inc. "Every time you give out a piece of that puzzle, then the bad guys are that much closer to stealing your identity."
Ruth Soukup, our money-saving expert, says free apps like "Viggle" are great because they can help you earn prizes like gift cards to your favorite stores.
"Viggle is great because you can basically make money for just watching TV," Soukup said.
Viggle calls itself a loyalty program; you get one point per minute you're "checked in" to a television show with bonus points for commercials or prime time shows. Then you cash in those points to get gift cards or merchandise from various companies.
"There is really no disadvantage to it in terms of having to pay money for the app or doing something beyond what you normally already would be doing or wasting the extra time," she pointed out.
But is there really no disadvantage? Viggle tells you in the small print they're sharing your personal information if you agree to their terms.
"Nothing in life is free... you're giving data that they can sell and make lots of money. Its multi-billion dollar industry," John Benkert said about most free apps. He told us it just comes down to doing your homework and actually reading that fine print.
"Making sure that you understand, everybody needs to understand, that it is up to you. No one is going to [read it] for you," he said.
Because in that fine print companies tell you they can share your name, email address and maybe more, with third-party companies.
And while some people we talked to said they were OK with giving their information to reputable companies, our computer expert says you almost never know who that "third party" is that your information is being shared with.
"All of those pieces of the puzzle, when I can get those and I can put them together, then I can get your social security number and I can do things like log into Equifax and find out what your credit is and then I can post that on the internet," explained Benkert.
We reached out to Viggle and they said they don't sell users' information, but they do share it with your consent.