In today’s age of technology and information, it seems like nearly everything puts you at risk of identity theft or some other unwanted issue. The dangers and risks of this world are apparently abundant, appearing in what would normally be considered harmless situations.
Consider the endless quizzes and tests that pop up on your Facebook newsfeed. While these fun little games might seem like entirely riskless guilty pleasures, the truth is that if you’re not careful with them, then they could easily leave you a victim of identity theft! (1, 2)
Police Department Warns Users Against Social Media Quizzes
Your Facebook account might feel like a safe place to you, but you should know that it very much isn’t. You might take extreme precautions to keep your privacy settings as updated as possible, but the truth is that any information you put on Facebook – whether it be on your own newsfeed, on someone else’s, or in a comment on some random post – is public news. You simply can’t contain all of this information, which can put you at great risk, depending on what you share. (1)
The Sutton Police Department in the state of Massachusetts recently shared an awakening story on their own Facebook page recently warning users that the “harmless” questionnaires we fill out on Facebook for fun could actually be revealing critical personal information to scammers, thieves, and the like. Their post has since collected over 200,000 shares. (1, 3)
According to the police department’s post, “Please be aware of some of the posts you comment on. [These questionable posts] ask what was your first-grade teacher, who was your childhood best friend, your first car, the place you [were] born, your favorite place, your first pet, where did you go on your first flight, etc.” The department went on to explain that “Those are the same questions asked when setting up accounts as security questions. You are giving out the answers to your security questions without realizing it.” (1, 3)
What Kind Of Quizzes Are The Police Warning Against?
In case you’re looking for an example quiz, consider one information-prompting post that practically anyone on Facebook has seen the like of: a simple and fun “What’s Your Elf Name?” quiz. Quizzes like these tend to ask for the letter of your first name, often paired with your birth month, in order to offer you a quirky “elf” name. (1)
This type of game pops up nearly every holiday season, and plenty more show up on our news feeds throughout the year, often accommodating movies, seasons, fandoms, and more. The idea, while seemingly harmless and fun to participate in, opens up the door to more harm than good. While the original quiz poster likely has no harmful intentions, posts like this push countless individuals to publically share personal information, along with their full name, allowing a “bad guy” to simply click on their name and view their profile to find out any missing pieces. Skilled strangers could learn everything they need to steal your identity. (1, 3)
Authorities Agree With Police
According to Rachel Rothman, the Chief Technologist for the Good Housekeeping Institute, the police warnings are spot on. Rothman says,
“A nugget of information in isolation may not seem like a big deal, but combining that with other data that may be out there can result in a greater threat. Be mindful of photos or posts that could give away information about your location or self (like your birthday) and consider if you are posting something that could be used to locate you offline or make it easier for someone to figure out any of your passwords.”
Rothman suggests using “fake” information for password recovery options in order to make them harder for a scammer to identify. Additionally, offering Facebook an incorrect date of birth and an incomplete profile name could also help your situation. Just remember that anything and everything posted on social media, no matter your privacy settings, are open to public viewing. Make sure you don’t post anything you’ll regret. (1, 4)