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Local shops using app to provide 'freebies'

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Who doesn't like to get something for nothing? Well, the next time you're at your favorite deli or coffee shop, you may see a reward program offering just that. But what information are you giving them in return?

Thanks to smartphones, punch cards seem to be going by the wayside. You can still get a deal for buying your favorite treats around town - but there's a downside. You're giving out information, like your email, buying habits and location.

At Fair Trade Coffee in downtown Phoenix, they're shaking things up with the Belly app.

"I really like it. I'm coming from the old-fashioned punch cards. It's nice. It's interactive with the customers," said owner Stephanie Vasquez. She said customers sign up for a Belly card, and every time they come into the cafe, they scan the card on an iPad next to the register, rack up points and get freebies.

"On the lower end, you're going to get a cookie. The next step is a baked good. Then you'll get a free coffee of choice," Vasquez said.

Plenty of other places in the Valley have the Belly loyalty program, too. To join, Vasquez's customers must provide an email address, which she uses for promotion.

"I can get my customer's emails. I can send out group emails. I can send out personal emails. I can even send out different surveys," Vasquez said.

"Do they know where I am?" asked Data Doctors' Ken Moskowitz. "Do they know where I've been? Do they know where I'm going?"

Moskowitz said the main concern is a information vulnerability in the case of a data breach. But he said there's a way around it. 

"You don't have to give them your real information. You can give them a fake name and attach it to a fake phone number if you want," Moskowitz said.

You can keep businesses from seeing your email address, but Belly still stores the information. Businesses pay to have Belly set up in their shops; the cheapest package is $80 a month. The most expensive one is $150 a month, and that feature allows access to customers' email addresses.

"You have some people that do feel it's a little more invasive, and they don't opt in, and then you have others that are super-excited. They get to see themselves on the iPad. They scan their card, and 'How many points do I have?'" Vasquez said.

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