KENNEBUNK, Maine — It came as a surprise to Samantha Caramihalis: an envelope full of gift cards for maternity items.
Along with the cards was a note, reading "so excited for you! Hope you like these, Jen."
Here’s the catch: Caramihalis never ordered these gift cards, and does not have a friend named Jen. She is, however, expecting her first child.
"I definitely was a little concerned with that, thinking maybe it came from my Amazon registry or something," said Caramihalis.
Caramihalis lives in Alfred, and is not the only woman across the country to receive this exact package in the mail.
The Surry County Sheriff’s office in Virginia investigated after similar concerns and found it was not a scam, but a promotional advertisement by a company in Utah called Mother's Lounge, LLC, which purchased women’s personal information and sent these gift cards.
Companies selling users' personal information and search trends is not uncommon, and not illegal.
"It was definitely something I agreed to I'm sure, but it's a little unnerving having people know that my address and everything is out there for people to buy if they want to," said Caramihalis.
"Usually buried in the terms and conditions that no one reads is 'your information you're handing over is available for sale or transfer to some other third party,'" said Jarrod Maxfield, owner of Necessary Technology, a computer service company in Portland.
Maxfield said sites like Google, Facebook, or Amazon can sell your personal info and search trends to other companies, all because you clicked "agree."
"If you're getting something and the trade-off is not monetary, you have to ask yourself, 'what is the trade-off?' your information is worth money. Someday when all of a sudden you say, 'how did this person get my information?' They might have gotten it from you."
NEWS CENTER Maine reached out to Mothers' Lounge, LLC, but received no response. It is unclear how the gift cards work, why or if they are free, and how they got the information of these women.
Many of the women said the gift cards cover the cost of the item, but do not cover the cost of shipping.
The company's profile with the Better Business Bureau shows Mother's Lounge has been in business for 14 years. It receives an "A-" from the BBB, but is not BBB accredited.
Searching the terms "pregnant jen gift cards" reveals a slew of varying results.