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My household has been doing some belt-tightening, so we recently stopped subscribing to the Sunday newspaper. My wife wants to try using online coupon sites (Coupons.com, Couponmom.com, Couponcabin.com, etc.) to print coupons for groceries and other household items. However, we're concerned about the risks associated with the online coupon sites. Here are my questions:

  1. How closely do the sites track your purchases? Do they keep a database of every purchase I make forever, or do they just track customer purchases in aggregate?
  2. Will I get more (snail) junk mail if I sign up with a coupon site?
  3. Most of the coupon sites seem to require that you download a coupon printing application. Have there been any reports of these applications installing mal-ware, unwanted toolbars, or other "hanky-panky" on users' PCs?
  4. Are there any coupons sites that I should definitely avoid?
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1) Very closely than you would ever think of. Amazon has every details of every purchase I have made since the past 4 years, when I initially joined, and regularly spams me about stuff I may need. Yes they keep a database under some pretext or the other(to suggest stuff you may need to buy depending on your past activities), you can ask them for all the information they hold about you.

2)Count on it. You may opt out, but still junk will find their way into your mailbox.

3)Check for reviews on the downloaded application and see if someone has any experience with it. Most of the installed applications have some sort of revenue sharing agreements with websites and stuff, so opt out of anything you do not want while installing the applications, don't press next without looking at what you are agreeing to.

4) Not so sure about it.

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The three sites you mention are big sites. They're not going to infect your computer with their software. If the site has a four-digit Alexa ranking or less, it's probably fine. CoolSavings.com is one that almost makes this cut (12k) but it's been around forever. It's all right.

Sites like these will gather as much information about your likes/dislikes, shopping habits, etc., as they can, because this offers more value to the companies paying to place coupons on these sites. But one thing that may result is that you may get better coupons for things you buy a lot, you'll get more coupons to choose from, etc.

Do you use a grocery loyalty card? If you do, then they're tracking stuff about you anyway.

If you're that concerned about privacy, I'd go back to buying the Sunday paper! Seems like it's not tough to save more than the cost of the paper, so I'm not sure why you're dropping that one?

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    We cancelled the Sunday paper because the quality of the content went down a lot relative to what we could get online. Also, the number and quality of coupons included got to the point where we were barely recouping the cost of the paper. I think that fewer brands are using newspapers to reach cost-conscious consumers. – braveterry Nov 22 '11 at 16:15

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