By Tracey Dowdy
Which Disney mom are you? Which Hogwarts house do you belong in? Only a true genius will score 100 percent on this quiz.
How many times a day do you see a quiz like this pop up in your Facebook feed? You may have even been tempted to test your knowledge or play along because the topis piques your interest. That’s no coincidence. Facebook’s complex algorithms and data-gathering technology have been gathering information on users since it’s inception, and one of the most effective ways is through quizzes.
According to CBC Information Morning tech columnist Nur Zincir-Heywood, though these quizzes may seem innocuous and fun, taking them leaves you vulnerable to identity theft or fraud. “Never do these,” said Zincir-Heywood, a cybersecurity expert who teaches in the computer science department at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
But it’s not just Facebook itself that’s gathering information. Security experts, media literacy groups, The Better Business Bureau, and law enforcement agencies across the country warn that hackers and scammers – not Facebook itself – are behind many of these social media quizzes, collecting, using and profiting from the personal information you share.
Zincir-Heywood cautions that social media quizzes often ask the same questions your financial organizations use for security purposes to verify your identity when you need to change your password or access your account without a password such as your mother’s maiden name or the name of your first pet.
Though the different questions may not all be on the same quiz, multiple quizzes can collect enough information to enable a cybercriminal to access your banking or credit card information.
“Maybe they are watching [your] social media in general, they know your location, they know other things about you,” Zincir-Heywood said. “All of these then put together is a way to collect your information and, in your name, maybe open another account or use your account to buy their own things. It can go really bad.”
She offers the following tips to protect yourself from their more nefarious side of social media quizzes:
- Be careful. Just like in real life, nothing is ever really free. Those quizzes offered on social media actually aren’t free, they come with a hefty cost – your personal information is data mined for companies to use in targeted advertising, or for cybercriminals to sell on the dark web.
- If you can’t resist the temptation, use fake information, especially for sections that ask for similar information to security questions used by your financial institutions. For example, if you are asked, ‘What’s the name of your childhood best friend,’ use a fake name.
- Remember, once you take these quizzes, you can’t take back the information you’ve provided. Keep a close eye on your online transactions for unusual or unauthorized banking or credit card activity.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.