October 1, 2008

Freebie Dangers: ActiveX Controls on Printing Online Coupons

A variety of online sites offer coupons that can be printed and used at your local grocery store (or elsewhere). However, many of these sites require special software downloaded to your hard drive in order to accomplish printing the coupons -- and some of these downloads include placing ActiveX controls on your machine. (If you have security software in place, it will stop this from occuring automatically and ask you to decide whether or not to allow the ActiveX control to proceed.)

What is an ActiveX control? Should you allow this, or should you forego the coupon offers?

1. ActiveX controls only work with Windows - if you have a Mac, just skip the rest of this post.

2. An ActiveX control has full access to your Windows operating system. This comes with a risk that there may be some damage to software you've already installed on your PC, or that it may harm data you've stored on your computer. Your safest route, when offered something with an ActiveX control, is to decline the download. But, what if you're chomping at the bit for those coupons you've discovered online?

3. If you want the coupon printing function, then you need minimize this risk. First, Microsoft has set up a registration system so that some browsers (ie., Internet Explorer, etc.) can identify and authenticate an ActiveX control before downloading it. Make sure your browser is doing this (for example, will the latest version of Firefox or Safari check the Microsoft registration?) Second, check around the web for those that have been using the coupon site without a problem. The really popular, time-tested coupon sites will probably offer a safer avenue to their coupon offerings than some lesser-known websites.

4. One last thing: don't print what you don't think you'll use. Each coupon is going to use up printer ink - and those color coupons can really eat into your printer budget.
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