This article is part of a series of "Social Media Scam" articles that identify and document the scams you may encounter in social media and what you should know about them.
You've most likely come across these types of ads on Facebook or even seen your friends and family share them:
Typically these sorts of "quizzes" or "surveys" will ask you your birth month or year, where you were born or what your mother's or father's name is. While these questions may seem innocent enough when presented alone, the truth is far from it.
What is happening is the companies or individuals behind these are harvesting your personally identifiable information (PII). When you combine the information already easily gathered from social media, plus what can be harvested from people via these scams, it's very easy for criminals to collect enough information about you to pretend to be you and commit identity fraud.
Ever been locked out of an important website? You will often have to answer security questions such as "What was the year you were born?" "What is your mother's maiden name?" etc. Criminals will use the same answers you provided to gain unauthorized access to accounts or to open new ones posing as you.
How can you reduce your risk?
1. Question who created the quiz, survey, or app: Is it from an organization or an individual you trust? Do you know anything about who is asking the questions and why? If not, best to move on or, even better, block the page.
2. Guard your personal information: Don't share addresses, places of employment, or phone numbers on your social media profiles; be careful who you provide that information to directly.
3. Don't share common security question answers: What was your high school mascot? What elementary school did you attend? What is your favorite place to eat? What was your grandmother's maiden name? These types of answers should never be shared in a quiz or survey online.
4. Good habits start young: Teach your children who use social media or play games on social media that these are not good games to play. Enforce no quizzes and surveys on social media if your children use social media. You wouldn't encourage your kids to give their personal information to a stranger; it shouldn't make a difference if it's via a quiz or directly talking to someone.
5. Keep your computer's security up to date: Browser updates can help block malicious advertisements and some bad actors on social media, but only if you keep up with updates.