If you’re a keen social media user, you might have spotted quizzes popping up on your Facebook newsfeed from time to time. Whether or not you’ve ever been seduced into completing one, this message is for you: be very, very careful what you share.
You might want to think twice the next time you're about to enter your best friend's first name in one of those Facebook quizzes.
There are, of course, thousands of legitimate online questionnaires that have been created just for fun. But in recent years there has been a spate of pages set up by hackers with the sole purpose of getting your personal data to open lines of credit in your name.
Popular quizzes claim to be able to decipher a number of weird and wonderful personality traits or future events, and hook users in with their promises of uncanny, unprecedented results. They will often employ a series of personal questions to gather your data, but you may want to think twice before you readily type your first pet’s name into a social media quiz from now on.
They may seem harmless – but don’t be fooled.
Sergeant Travis Munter with the Bozeman Police Department in Montana warned that someone may be “on the other end,” collecting your data and using it to nefarious ends, according to KWYB. It’s rare that the information you input just disappears into the ether.
“Giving away information about yourself, your likes and preferences, can lead to all kinds of unexpected consequences,” added investigative reporter and cybercriminal expert Brian Krebs. “This practice may even help turn the tide of elections,” he warned. Krebs published his thoughts on the matter in April of 2019.
But how do you sift out the legitimate questions from the scams? “If you must patronize a company or service that forces you to select secret questions,” Krebs advised, “I think it’s a really good idea not to answer them truthfully. Just make sure you have a method for remembering your phoney answer,” he continued, soundly, “in case you forget the lie somewhere down the road.”
Have any of you answered one of these posts on social media lately? You may want to be more careful of what you’re sharing. #besmart #socialmediasafety
Police departments have had their eye on this issue for some time. Typical answers to these types of quiz questions, they warn, can be very similar to the information asked for by banking security when setting up or accessing accounts. If you are easily seduced by online quizzes, then hackers may be able to build fake profiles in your name or even go as far as to steal your identity.
The Sutton Police Department in Massachusetts posted a warning message on Facebook in December of 2017 that is just as relevant today as it was then. “Please be aware of some of the posts you comment on,” it read. “You are giving out the answers to your security questions without realizing it.”
Sam Curry, chief security officer for cybersecurity specialists Cybereason, chipped in. “Simply, don’t take any online quizzes,” he advised. “Seriously, are you doing it to impress someone? No one cares,” he added bluntly, as reported by The Sun. “For money?” Curry continued, “There’s no money! To prove smarts? It’s dumb.”
“There’s no win, so move on from the bait on the trap because you aren’t impressing anyone, and why risk having personally identifiable information stolen?”
Recognizing the severity of the threat, the Federal Trade Commission even set up a website for anyone who fears that their data has been compromised. Rather than be embarrassed about having fallen victim to a scam, victims should use the site and help to guard against repeat offenses.
It’s your identity. Hang on to it.