What’s your ideal dog breed?
What’s your real personality like?
Where’s the ideal retirement location for you?
…and what’s the password on your online bank account?
Online quizzes promise to tell you fun things like (for example) your real personality type, the dog breed that best suits you, the ideal post-retirement vacation for you and other quirky, interesting personal matters.
Who wouldn’t enjoy taking such a fun quiz?
Quizzing away your data
The problem: Our fondness for online quizzes (and surveys, too) can make it possible for scammers to gain access to our private information. Scammers have figured out ways to collect a single data point here, another one there and link them to larger “data collections”.
Answering seemingly innocuous questions — your city of birth, your father’s first name, the color of your first car– can be data points that sophisticated scammers use to identify you.
Next step, disaster?
Their next step? Getting access to your personal financial information, your credit cards, bank accounts, even identity theft. Scammers are skilled at combining data points – with the help of the dark web, phishing, and scam phone calls – to cause all sorts of mischief.
How to protect yourself
How to protect yourself? The easy way is not to reply to any quizzes either directly or via social media, whether you visit it, or it visits you. Still, if you find an online quiz to be so intriguing that you find it hard to resist, give faux information. For example:
- Instead of your father’s first name, use a random name instead
- Fake your birthday date and year.
- Name a random birth city (not yours).
- Favorite hobby? Name crocheting (when it’s really when it’s really quilt-making) or wood-working (when it’s really fiddling with computers).
How best to protect yourself? The basics are worth repeating. They include:
- Using strong passwords for all your accounts. You know the rules: Create long passwords (the longer the better) that include letters, characters and upper and lower case letters.
- Change your passwords often.
- Use Two-factor authentication. Use a second – even a third — means of proving yourself. A common authentication process used by financial institutions is to call you with a code that you must input before you can access your account.
- Pick security questions that only you can answer. Public record security questions (like where you were born) are easily breached. Instead, use questions to which only you know the answer: the name of your favorite poem, your best friend from your first job, your oldest niece, or first college roommate, your favorite china or silverware pattern. You can us anything as long as this information hasn’t been shared or revealed by you anywhere online.
Why so thorough? Scammers use incredibly sophisticated programs to scour – literally – millions of places where your information sits, waiting to be harvested and matched with other data.
If you fall for an online quiz (or survey) that you suspect is a scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
For more information on online quiz scams, go to the FTC’s site: https://consumer.ftc.gov/consumer-alerts/2023/01/dont-answer-another-online-quiz-question-until-you-read
Have you fallen – or almost fallen – for a quiz scam? What tipped you off? Let us know in the comments!
Nona Aguilar is an award-winning writer of numerous magazine articles and two books. She has also edited four specialty business newsletter publications. Her work has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Family Circle and other outlets.