What's the Deal: Are your shopping apps tracking you?

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What's the Deal: Retail app privacy. Alicia Vitarelli reports during Action News at 4:30 p.m. on June 5, 2017. (WPVI)

If you've ever received a notification from one of your favorite stores that seems oddly timed - that's because, they know where you are.

Many of us download apps for our favorite brands, looking for deals and there's a way to keep those perks without losing privacy.

Notifications popping up on your cell phone while you're shopping near a popular retail store is not a coincidence - when you download apps from companies like Urban Outfitters and Macy's, they use your phone's GPS to access your location.

"They have technologies that can follow you when you walk through sectors of the store and connect through your data - they know who you are," said Joseph Turow, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

ABC's Becky Worley gave it a shot here in Philadelphia. When she walks in to Urban Outfitters, her phone pings with a notification and the app alerted her with sales.

Similar notifications appeared when she walked into our Macy's in Center City.

"I just put my hand on the door handle and a notification popped up welcome to Macy's - they know I'm here," said Worley.

She says Macy's also sent her notifications when she was shopping at their direct competitors nearby.

Here's how: in addition to GPS, stores are using Bluetooth, WiFi and even your phone's microphone to let them know where you are and then selectively target you with ads.

The stores say they do take you through a series of prompts when you download their apps, including location-related permission requests.

Here's how to check yours. On Apple devices: Go to settings, then privacy, then click on location services. Here you can see a list of your apps and which ones are tracking your location and how frequently.

There's a similar step in the apps setting section on Android devices.

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